As kids head back to school, here are three key things that parents need to know.

  1. Family Engagement is the Key to Student Success

Years of research shows that family engagement is crucial to children’s success in school and beyond. When families are engaged by reading together, monitoring homework, ensuring attendance, working with teachers, asking about what students learned and how their day went, and joining PTA, students benefit with higher achievement, better social skills and behavior, and an increased likelihood of graduation. Further research has shown that schools would have to spend $1,000 more per pupil to see the same increases in student achievement that come from an involved parent.

PTA makes it easier for schools to increase family engagement through the National PTA School of Excellence program. Based on the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, the School of Excellence program provides PTAs with a step-by-step roadmap to engage families in one of three areas: supporting arts in education, ensuring students’ health and safety, or improving family engagement in education. Enroll your PTA before October 1st and complete a school community survey by November 1st to get a Roadmap to Excellence customized for your PTA and community. Complete the process and report your results by June 1, 2016 to become a National PTA School of Excellence.


  1. Healthy Kids are Better Learners

Families and teachers know that students can’t grow, learn, and succeed when they are not healthy, and research backs them up. Parents can ensure that their children are healthy by providing nutritious meals, making sure they have regular health care, and providing opportunities to exercise and move. PTAs can help families with these goals through programs such as Fire Up Your Feet, Energy Balance 101, Smart Snacks, Healthy Habits, and other PTA Healthy Lifestyles programs and resources.


  1. Education Changes Help All Students

A recent study stated that a large majority of college professors reported that their students begin college with gaps in their preparation. Employers hiring high school graduates reported that education gaps require additional education and training for those new hires in similar numbers. Illinois has adopted and implemented new higher learning standards in English/Language Arts, Math, and Science, and has adopted new standards in Social Science. Our new assessments require students to think critically and solve problems rather than simply filling in bubbles next to predetermined answers.

These new higher standards and tougher assessments are critical to better preparing all students for success in college and careers, as well as helping to address the achievement gap in Illinois. Parents can help support their students through resources such as the Parents’ Guides to Student Success, National PTA’s webinar series and video series on the new standards,, and Clave al Éxito. The new assessments provide more specific information to teachers about where students are struggling, so prepare to make the most of your time in upcoming Parent-Teacher Conferences.