Illinois PTA strongly supports Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to end seclusion of students by schools. The move comes following a ProPublica Illinois investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Tribune into the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois public schools. The investigation documented more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-2018 school year and through early December 2018, a significant fraction of which did not meet the legal requirement of a student posing a safety threat to themselves or others.
Illinois PTA has advocated for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion in accordance with the 2015 National PTA resolution on the issue. Restraint and seclusion are most often used on students with special needs, and as documented by ProPublica Illinois, are often used in situations where student safety is not a concern (e.g., spilling milk, swearing, or refusing to do classwork). Parents are often told little or nothing about what has happened to their child.
The trauma associated with the use of restraint and seclusion can have lasting effects on children. In 2012, the US Department of Education noted that secluding students was dangerous and that there was no evidence showing it was effective in reducing problematic behaviors. Far too often, restraint and seclusion are illegally used as disciplinary tools, not for student safety. In some instances, improper use of restraint and seclusion has resulted in the death of a student.
In accordance with the governor’s directive, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has announced emergency action to immediately end the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois schools. Illinois PTA supports this emergency action and is prepared to work with ISBE, the governor’s office, and the General Assembly to education families on this issue and support legislation to end the practice of restraint and seclusion.
The first few PTA meetings of the year always have a big turnout, with new families wanting to know what’s happening and returning families wanting to see what the PTA has planned for the year. But now that the first few months of school are behind you, chances are attendance at your PTA meetings has dropped off a bit from the start of the year. Here are eight ways to perk up your PTA meetings and attendance.
- Respect their time. With families having busy lives, it can be tough to get the family fed, run off to a PTA meeting, and be back in time to help with homework and tuck the kids in bed. Limiting your PTA meeting to an hour means that parents know when they’ll be back home.
- Send reminders and share information. Use MemberHub to send reminders of your PTA meetings and events. Be sure to use the files section to post your agenda, meeting minutes, and any relevant items that will be discussed at the meeting so people can come prepared. After the meeting, share what happened.
- Break the ice. One of the more common complaints about PTAs are that they are a clique or there is an in-group that runs everything. Start your meeting with an icebreaker (see these from Minnesota PTA) to help everyone get to know more about each other, use nametags, and have people answer a silly personal question (e.g., least favorite food or favorite holiday movie) when doing introductions. Consider creating a welcome packet for your new families.
- Include the kids. Parents show up when their child is performing. Consider working with teachers to have kids highlight something they are doing in class—performing a song, displaying art they’ve created, or math games they’re playing to learn concepts.
- Feed them. Getting the family fed and then getting to a PTA meeting can be a challenge. Make that challenge a little easier by providing dinner with your PTA meeting, something simple like pizza or a potluck dinner. Use some of that eating time to give people a chance to mingle and meet.
- Get rid of barriers. Consider switching from a head table with the officers to a circle or everyone around one “big table” by pushing several together. If a significant portion of your families speak a different language at home, consider bringing in an interpreter and translating your materials into that language.
- Reward them. Consider creating a loyalty program for your PTA meetings. Each time someone attends a meeting they get an entry for a drawing, either at that PTA meeting or after several PTA meetings. The rewards don’t have to be expensive. Things like four front row seats and a reserved parking space for a holiday concert, tickets for games at a school carnival, or a small gift card for coffee or school supplies can all work.
- Go live. Use Skype, Facebook Live, or some other platform to share your PTA meeting live for those unable to attend in person.
You have probably heard that you should be helping your child learn math at home through everyday activities. But perhaps you have been reluctant to do so, either because you didn’t know where to begin, you find the new math curriculum is confusing, or you have always thought that you were “bad at math.” For parents of students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Mathnasium has a booklet of Math Tips for Parents. They have a companion booklet called Math Tips for Students Grades 6 & Up as well.
The booklet for parents covers the basic math concepts that students should be learning and provides examples of questions to ask to support those concepts. The booklet covers ideas like:
- Problem Solving
- Visualizing Problems
- Learning Addition and Subtraction Facts
- Learning to Tell Time
The focus of the booklet is on helping your child learn math concepts, which is much more important for later success in math and science than learning a certain way of adding or how to solve a specific problem.
What Your PTA Can Do
Mathnasium is also a founding sponsor of National PTA’s STEM+Families program. In partnership with National PTA, Mathnasium has created a Math Night program that provides a ready-to-use collection of games and materials to help kids explore math at their own level. The step-by-step materials are part of the Math Grants Toolkit, and your PTA does not have to be a math grant winner to use the kit. The toolkit includes everything you need for a successful Math Night, including planning materials, promotional tools, and wrap-up items, with most pieces available in both English and Spanish. Start planning your Math Night today.
Physical Education (PE) at school can help children build lifelong healthy habits to exercise. Illinois was the first state to mandate daily Physical Education (PE) with at least 100 minutes per week, and in 2015, Illinois adopted Enhanced PE standards. But in 2018 that requirement was cut to three days with no minimum time requirement. With the loosening of PE requirements, it is important that families know what their child’s school PE program actually includes. To help, Shape America has partnered with National PTA to create Getting to Know Your Child’s PE Program: A Parent’s Guide.
The guide provides you with 13 questions to ask about your child’s PE program and explains why it is important to ask these questions. Among them are:
- Is physical education taught by a certified teacher with a degree in physical education?
- Is the physical education class size similar to that of other content areas, to ensure safe, effective instruction?
- Does the program provide maximum participation for every student (e.g., inclusion, no elimination games, all students active at once, developmentally appropriate activities)?
- How are students with disabilities included in your physical education program?
- Is physical activity—or the withholding of physical activity—used as a negative consequence when students misbehave?
- Are social and emotional learning skills integrated into the health and physical education classroom?
Share the guide with your families, or use it as a basis for a program at your next PTA meeting on how your school does PE.
Photo © 2011 by Brad Barth under Creative Commons license.