Making Indoor Recess Active

Now that cold weather has arrived in Illinois, along with a bit of snow, many schools will be holding indoor recess. Parents for Healthy Kidsrecently featured an article on how to work with school administrators and teachers to ensure that indoor recess still gives kids the opportunity to be active.

The article provides several tips that PTAs can use to build an indoor recess plan that helps kids burn off energy. Among them are:

  • Look at space and schedule availability. What areas are not in use at certain times where kids could jump rope or move around without disrupting other classes?
  • Create recess bags with goodies to help teachers run indoor recess in the classroom. Include items like jump ropes, foam balls, fitness videos (e.g., GoNoodle’s Indoor Recess series), movement dice, and yoga cards so teachers have activities right at hand.
  • Enlist parent volunteers to help teachers with indoor recess.
  • Get student input to find out what kids would like to do during indoor recess.
  • Establish recess procedures that make sure all students are active and safe while not disturbing the class next door.

Find more tips in the articleand additional resources on keeping kids healthy and active at Parents for Healthy Kids.

Photo courtesy US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Alexnadre Montes.

8 Keys to Getting Business Donations

Business donations can help a PTA offer programs and events and takes some of the financial burden off of your members by avoiding the need for fundraisers. But reaching out to businesses doesn’t come naturally to most people, and it can feel a little awkward when you first start. Here are eight tips to get you going.

  1. Remember Who You Represent.When you approach a business for a donation, you are representing your PTA and the work you do for children. PTA is a nationally-recognized brand. So when you approach a business, you have a lot to offer and are asking on behalf of a good cause. Don’t sell your PTA short by making too small a request—businesses will be interested in being associated with your brand.
  2. Coordinate Your Requests.PTAs run several events and programs over the course of the year, so make sure you’re not asking the same businesses for donations for each one. Have your leaders for the various programs work together at the beginning of the year to divide up the businesses you’ll be approaching for each event. Try and match potential donors with relevant programs, like asking an art supply store to help sponsor your Reflections program.
  3. Find Out Who Your PTA Already Knows.Check past years’ records to see which businesses have donated before. Look at your membership and school population—are any of the families at your school business owners. Don’t just look at parents, but also grandparents, aunts, and uncles as well. They all have a stake in the success of the students at your school.
  4. Know What You Want.Decide in advance what you would like from a potential business donor. Is it a simple financial donation, door prizes to hand out, or materials to help you put on your event. Be specific in what you are asking for.
  5. Offer Them Something in Return.Be sure to offer your business donors a publicly visible recognition of their support. That can be a window cling or certificate citing them as a “Proud Supporter of Lincoln PTA,” signage at your event thanking the sponsors, mentions in your newsletter thanking them for their support, or a small banner spot on your PTA website or newsletter for a certain period of time. Note that when doing the latter, PTA is not endorsing the business, the business is supporting the PTA. Think PBS-style sponsor (This PTA event was brought to you in part by ABC Business, provider of fine art supplies.), not traditional advertisement.
  6. Don’t Burn Your Bridges.A business may say no for a variety of reasons—they may have already filled their planned quota of non-profit donations for the quarter or the year, they may feel that the event doesn’t fit their business, or they may not currently have the resources to spare at that time. Thank them for their time, and ask if they’d be willing to sponsor a different PTA event sometime in the future.
  7. Follow Up After Your Event.Be sure to send a thank you note to every donor with a handwritten signature. Include a receipt if the donation was strictly financial, and note the amount of the donation either directly or as the value of the in-kind donation so they have a record for their tax filing. Consider sharing photos of your event or thank you notes from the kids who participated.
  8. Keep Records of Who Donated.By keeping track of the businesses who have donated in the past, your PTA will know who to approach first in the future. You can also then thank a donor for their past support when asking them to donate again.

 

300+ Digital Tools for Educators

Thomas Murray, who spoke at the 2015 National PTA Convention, has presented at Future Readyevents across the country. As part of that, he has had the opportunity to run sessions called “Tools for Engagement.” In these sessions, he would demonstrate a handful of tools for efficiency, management, and engagement, and then let the teachers attending explore them as well and crowdsource their favorite digital tools. Each participant left with the collaborative results of the session.

At a recent session, Mr. Murray was asked by a participant if they could share the list with their fellow teachers back at their school. He has done them one better by creating a Google doc with more than 300 digital toolsorganized by their use, complete with links to the tools, all crowdsourced by teachers in the classroom. PTA leaders, please share this list with the teachers and administrators at your school.

The Importance of Algebra I in 8th Grade

Access to Algebra I in 8thgrade is a critical course for students interested in going into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. A recent US Department of Education data storylooks at which students have access to 8thgrade Algebra I, where it is offered, and who takes it.

Why 8thGrade Algebra I is Important

Algebra I is considered a gatekeeper course—students need to complete it to have access to higher level math and science courses. For example, students who take Algebra I in the 8thgrade can then take Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus during their high school years. Not taking it until the 9thgrade moves calculus off the schedule in high school. Similar limits happen in getting the prerequisites for higher level science courses students need to complete in order to major in STEM fields in college. Currently, only 24% of public school students take Algebra I in the 8thgrade.

Access to 8thGrade Algebra I

Based on US Department of Education data, the availability of 8thgrade Algebra I varies widely. Only 59% of schools across the country offer Algebra I in the 8thgrade; however, these schools serve approximately 80% of all public school students. Suburban schools are the most likely to offer 8thgrade Algebra I, with 86% of students in those districts able to do so. About 75% of students in schools grouped as urban, rural, or town have access Algebra I in the 8thgrade.

Enrollment, however, lags far behind access. Overall, 24% of 8thgraders take Algebra I. Asian students are most likely to take 8thgrade Algebra I, with 34% doing so. White and multiracial students take it at 24% and 23% rates, respectively. Other minority groups enroll in 8thgrade Algebra I at a 12% to 14% rate. Female students (25%) are slightly more likely to take Algebra I in the 8thgrade than male students (22%).

Given that high school graduation in Illinois requires completion of Algebra I and Geometry, school districts might be tempted to push students into 8thgrade Algebra I in order to help them successfully complete it in high school. However, research indicatesthat while pushing students who are underprepared to take Algebra I in the 8thgrade does result in more of them passing Algebra I in high school, those students pass with lower scores than those who started the course later and they are also less likely to pass high school geometry.

What PTAs Can Do

One part of the data story includes an interactive map allowing you to zoom in on Illinois and see the percentage of schools in each district that offer 8thgrade Algebra I. For Chicago Public Schools, only 49% of schools did so. A significant portion of downstate districts do not offer it at all.

If your school district does not currently offer every student access to 8thgrade Algebra I, your PTA can advocate for those students. Every PTA should also ask about what your school district is doing to ensure that every student who has access to 8thgrade Algebra I is prepared to do so and what is being done to close any achievement gaps for students of color, of low-socio-economic status, or other groups underrepresented in the district’s enrollment in 8thgrade Algebra I.