Every year, about 150,000 Illinois five-year-olds have their first day of kindergarten. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has recently begun measuring kindergarten readiness as a way to improve this critical first year of school. The measure, known as Kindergarten Individual Development Survey (KIDS), uses teacher observation of daily classroom activities like playing, working, and lining up during the first few weeks of school. ISBE has also created a family toolkit to help new kindergarten parents better support their child and build a solid foundation for their education.
KIDS is not a pull-out test, but simply kindergarten teachers observing their students throughout the day during the beginning weeks of school, looking at four key components for education success:
- Approaches to Learning and Self-Regulation
- Social and Emotional Development
- Language and Literacy Development
- Cognition: Math
By understanding their students’ strengths, challenges, and dispositions, kindergarten teachers will be able to better support and build on what those students already know and can do.
Because family engagement is a critical part of student success, ISBE has created a family toolkit to help families understand the KIDS measure and to provide at-home activities to support their child’s education. The toolkit includes:
- An overview of the KIDS measure in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Polish, Tagalog, and Urdu
- An introduction video in English and Spanish
- 14 at-home activity sheets in the four domains in both English and Spanish
Sending your child off to kindergarten is often a big event for families. Your PTA can help make the transition a little smoother for those new kindergarten parents in your school by sharing the KIDS family toolkit with them. Doing so is also a great opportunity to invite them to join your PTA and support the work you are doing for student success at your school.
National PTA recently announced the 2019-2021 Schools of Excellence, and Illinois PTA is proud to congratulate our record number of schools being recognized. The 11 schools are:
- Frederick Douglass PTSA, Chicago
- George W. Lieb PTA, Inc, Bridgeview
- Glacier Ridge PTA, Crystal Lake
- Granger Middle School PTA, Aurora
- Greenbrier Elementary PTA, Arlington Heights
- Homewood PTA, Homewood
- Pershing Panthers PTA, Chicago
- Quincy Junior High School PTA, Quincy
- Urbana Middle School PTSA, Urbana
- Windsor PTA, Arlington Heights
- Kreitner PTA, Collinsville
Kreitner PTA is now a two-time School of Excellence, having been one of Illinois PTA’s first honorees.
The School of Excellence programprovides a step-by-step guide for improving family engagement in your school. To participate, enroll your school by October 1st, conduct a survey of your families by November and receive a roadmap to success, follow the roadmap throughout the year, conduct a follow-up survey between March and June to measure your improvement, and submit your final report by June 1st. The Illinois PTA field service team provides PTAs in the program support throughout the process.
PTAs that successfully complete the program receive a banner and materials for their school celebration and are automatically considered for the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardand a $2,000 grant. Both principals and PTAs that have participated have praised the way that the program has transformed the conversations and climate at their school and in their PTA.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a 2020-2022 School of Excellence. Enroll in the program now.
National PTA ran the Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative from June 2018 to May 2019 in ten states to develop ways for PTAs to connect and engage with Hispanic/Latino families. The results of the initiative will be packaged in a toolkit for PTAs to use that will be released in early 2020. At the 2019 National PTA Convention, several participants shared what their state PTAs had learned from participation in the initiative.
The Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative had several goals.
- Develop culturally-specific outreach strategies
- Initiate Hispanic/Latino membership growth
- Document successful strategies and identify opportunities
- Create a toolkit for PTAs to use based on proven strategies
Hispanic/Latino outreach was identified as a critical population for PTA, as currently 1 in 4 students are Hispanic/Latino, while only 4% of state PTA boards are from that community. By 2050, 1 in 3 students are expected to be Hispanic/Latino.
Challenges with Hispanic/Latino Outreach
While language barriers are an easily identified challenge to reaching out to the Hispanic/Latino community, the initiative clearly noted that it is not the only one. “Family Engagement” is not common in Hispanic/Latino culture, as teachers are seen as the experts and speaking to a teacher is seen as questioning authority. Other challenges identified by the initiative include:
- While the deference towards teachers is sometimes interpreted as Hispanic/Latino not caring about their child’s education, 92% of these parents think it is essential for their children to attend a two- or four-year college—the highest percentage of any demographic group.
- 50% of Hispanic/Latino children have a parent that was born outside the United States, and 25% have an undocumented parent. To engage these families, PTAs must be trusted; however, once that trust is built, Hispanic/Latino families can be very loyal.
- 78% of Hispanic/Latino parents who own a smartphone use it to access news and information. Consequently, it is important for PTAs to be mobile-friendly when reaching out to this population and realize that Hispanic/Latino families may prefer to receive texts rather than e-mails.
- Non-standard work hours are common in the Hispanic/Latino community, 75% of Hispanic/Latino children in single-parent homes and 90% in two-parent homes having parents working non-standard hours. 40% of children with low-income parents work hours between 6:00pm and midnight, making it impossible to attend evening functions at school.
Reaching Out to the Hispanic/Latino Community
The Hispanic/Latino Outreach Initiative gave the state PTAs in the program the freedom to try many different approaches. Among the successful activities and lessons learned from the initiative are:
- Don’t expect the Hispanic/Latino community to come to you; it is essential to figure out how to go to them. One successful approach with migrant farm workers was to meet with them during their lunch break in the fields, providing cold water to drink, and discussing and providing PTA family engagement resources so they can better support their child in school.
- New Jersey PTA created a “Why PTA?” presentation in Spanish. One way to have materials translated is to reach out to the local Hispanic/Latino Chamber of Commerce (if there is one), as the business community is very interested in supporting these students and their families.
- Take advantage of existing resources. New Jersey PTA put together a toolkit for local PTAs of what they considered the top 15 National PTA resources that are available in Spanish. They also included the English language versions as well so those PTA leaders who did not speak Spanish knew what topic each resource addressed. Don’t forget to take advantage of other organizations’ resources that are available in Spanish, such as Learning Heroes.
- Don’t be afraid to have an event in Spanish rather than English. Washington PTA hosted a showing of the Spanish-language version of Frozenthat was a big success. As one leader put it, “Who doesn’t already know Frozenregardless of the language?”
Be sure to take advantage of the other National PTA resources to help you reach out to underrepresented communities, such as the Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit.
Summertime, and school’s out, so you may not be thinking about having your PTA host an event. And while school may be out, the summer also provides a unique opportunity to reach out to families that haven’t been involved with PTA or new families coming to your school and show them what PTA is all about. It’s also an opportunity to fight the “summer slide.”
National PTA has partnered with Access from AT&Tand EveryoneOn to help ensure that families have the resources their kids need for success in the classroom and beyond. The Summer Learning Toolkit has everything your PTA needs to host a Summer Learning Listening Session. Each listening session is designed to be a quick event to add to a PTA meeting, but could also be coupled with a fun summer activity like an ice cream social.
The toolkit gives you everything you need, including:
- Resources to plan your event around
- A list of the key volunteers you’ll need
- Templates to promote your event
- An agenda to follow at your event
- Things to do to wrap up after your event
Check out the entire toolkit and start planning your Summer Learning Listening Event now.