At the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans, delegates adopted one new resolution and amended another existing resolution. The first resolution addresses students with disabilities, while the second focuses on mental health programs and services. The links to the resolutions here are to the proposed text and amendments, which were only slightly modified by the convention delegates. The final text of the resolutions will be posted on the National PTA Resolutions pagein the near future.
Resolution on High Expectations for Students with Disabilities
As the new resolution on high expectations for students with disabilitiesnotes, more than half of all students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their school day in general education classes. These students need both quality general education instruction and targeted interventions and accommodations. For students with disabilities, time in general education classes lead to fewer absences, less disruptive behavior, and better outcomes after high school, as well as new learning opportunities for students without disabilities.
Yet for students with disabilities, there continues to be a gap between the achievement of these students and those without disabilities. Research has shown that teacher expectations for students with disabilities, parental expectations for their children’s academic achievement, and students’ own mindsets all play key roles in their success.
The resolution directs National PTA and all PTAs under it (including local PTAs) to:
- Collaborate with school communities to include students with disabilities and their families in all school activities.
- Support peer mentoring, collaborative problem solving, cooperative working groups, and more casual or unstructured interactions between student with disabilities and those without disabilities.
- Include a relevant general educator present at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.
- Support funding for teacher professional development regarding adapting instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities, accommodations that improve access to the general curriculum, and high expectations for all students regarding both academics and behavior.
- Support implementation of best practices to meet the needs of diverse students, including Universal Design for Learning (UDL), inclusion, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), and Response to Intervention (RTI).
- Support students with disabilities access to accommodations, including assistive technology.
Amended Resolution on Children’s Emotional Health and Mental Health Awareness
The convention delegates amended the 1969 resolution on Children’s Emotional Health to address mental health issues as well. The amended resolution notes that mental health issues in children have increased in recent years, with 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 living with a mental health condition. Furthermore, 79% of students ages 6 to 17 with mental health disorders do not receive mental health care. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment for these children is 8 to 10 years.
The amended resolution calls on National PTA and its constituent associations to:
- Support efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health providers that offer preventative and treatment services to children and adults, as well as comprehensive school mental health programs that include adequate access to school psychologies, school counselors, and school social workers.
- Advocate for teacher and administrator training to improve the understanding of child emotional and mental health needs, with an emphasis on the importance of establishing a school climate conducive to good mental health.
- Promote education programs for parents and families to strengthen understanding and supportive home environments.
- Support efforts to provide education and other supports for school staff and professional development to assist with addressing and early detection of mental health issues.
Last week, the National PTA Board of Directors adopted the following statement on the administration’s zero-tolerance policy and family separation. This statement was unanimously endorsed by the delegates to the 2018 National PTA Convention on Sunday, June 24thto demonstrate that the broad support for National PTA’s statement goes far beyond the Board of Directors. While the president has signed an executive order ending the practice, National PTA has stated that they will continue to monitor the situation and urges the administration to reunite families as quickly as possible.
A founding principle of National PTA’s mission is to promote the safety and well-being of all children and youth. National PTA recognizes that the United States began as a country of immigrants and the resulting blend of cultures enriches our nation. National PTA believes all children, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to access a quality public education, adequate food and shelter, and basic health care services. The separation of a child from their parent creates toxic stress and trauma that can have significant harm on a child’s brain development. Children entering the United States either unaccompanied or accompanied by a parent or adult family member must be treated with dignity and respect, should be adequately cared for, and reunited with their family as soon as possible under U.S. laws and policies.
The National PTA supports the following statements:
- Family unity is a core principle of society. Children belong with their parents, family members or legal guardian.
- The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement (Flores) lays out the protections and expectations regarding the detention, release, and care of all children – both accompanied and unaccompanied undocumented children – arriving in the United States.
- The separation of families for purposes of immigration enforcement, management, or detention is never in the best interest or well-being of children. Children should not be used as a deterrent to enter the United States.
- If a child is separated from their parent(s) during immigration detention, federal policy should ensure children are reunited as soon as possible with their parent(s) in accordance with Flores to maintain family unity while they pursue their immigration and protection claims.
It is in the national interest to ensure all children, including undocumented children, have the opportunity to reach their full potential and become productive members of society.
National PTA calls on the U.S. Congress and the administration to take the necessary steps to immediately stop any zero-tolerance policy that may result in harmful separation of undocumented children from their parents or family members. National PTA also seeks the immediate reunification of families presently separated under current enforcement policy.
If you are the parent of a child with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan, you are probably used to advocating for your child. But there is one area that many parents overlook—teacher training or professional development. Understoodand the National Center for Learning Disabilitieshave created a parent toolkit to help advocate for improved teacher training to better support the one in five students with learning or attention issues.
The toolkit focuses on four key strategies that are designed to bring about system-wide changes that can help kids with learning and attention issues thrive. The four strategies are:
- Strengths-Based IEPsthat can help shift the mindset of every member of your child’s IEP team. This approach can help the team start thinking about how to leverage your child’s abilities. Training can help the team develop IEP goals that use strengths to address a particular need.
- Multi-Tier System of Supports (MTSS)that can help schools improve the performance of all students by identifying needs early and modifying instruction quickly. It can also reduce disciplinary incidents. But many schools need more training on how to collect, interpret and respond to student progress data.
- Personalized Learningthat aims to customize education. The what, when, where and how of learning are tailored to each student’s abilities, needs and interests. If done well, it can help students take ownership of their learning and meet rigorous standards. If not done well, struggling students can fall further behind.
- Universal Design for Learning (UDL)that is a framework for how to optimize teaching and learning for all students, not just those who struggle. UDL is based on insights from the science of how people learn and helps teachers instruct a diverse group of learners by providing different ways for students to access the material, engage with it and show what they’ve learned.
For each strategy, the toolkit provides a fact sheet that you can provide to a school administrator, a letter template, and a set of talking points for parents to support you in your conversations on the issue. The toolkit also provides an overview of teacher professional development, covers federal funding to support professional development, and gives five tips for parents on how to advocate with your school board. See the full toolkit for all of this information and resources.
Local implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the focus of many new resources for stakeholders, as school district begin to create their own ESSA implementation plan. One of the latest, which National PTA contributed to, is Meaningful Local Engagement Under ESSA—Issue 2: A Handbook for Local Leadersfrom Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers. This is a follow up to Issue 1, which focused on school district and school leaders.
The handbook focuses on how school districts, families, and community advocates can engage in three key areas:
- Needs Assessments and Priority-Building
- School Improvement Strategies
- Resource Alignment
The first area is designed to help school districts determine their needs for school improvement and increasing student achievement. Districts then engage with their families and communities to prioritize these needs.
The second area takes those priorities and looks at strategies schools can use to improve student achievement. The handbook covers how districts can use a “whole child” approach (like Illinois has chosen in its state ESSA implementation plan) to meet student needs. Areas covered include:
- Improving Data Systems and Reporting
- Restructuring Academic Assessments
- Incorporating Technology in the Classroom
- Introducing Advanced Coursework
- Increasing Access to After-School and Expanded Learning
- Creating a Positive/Pro-Social School Climate
- Increasing Nutrition and Food Access
- Aligning and Supporting Early Childhood Education
- Reducing Chronic Absence
- Increasing Access to the Arts
- Supporting English Learners
- Supporting Students with Disabilities
- Supporting Students in Foster Care and Experiencing Homelessness
- Supporting Teachers and Leaders
The final area of focus is resource alignment. After prioritizing needs and selecting strategies, school districts must determine how to adequately fund those school improvements. This section help districts and advocates with resource mapping and budgeting. Opportunities for ESSA funding from federal and state governments are covered as well.
Finally, the report provides additional resources and tools, as well as a glossary of terms that those new to the discussion may not be familiar with. Download the reportand begin discussing with your school and district how your PTA can be involved in creating your district’s ESSA implementation plan.