News from National Convention—Grant Opportunities

At the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans, numerous new grant opportunities were announced that PTAs (and in some cases, PTA Councils and PTA districts or regions) can apply for. These grants provide an opportunity for your PTA to implement new programs and grow your PTA.

STEM + Families Science Festival Grants

Deadline: August 26, 2018

National PTA and Bayer have teamed up to promote Science Festivals with two unique grants available depending on your type of PTA. The 2018-2019 National PTA STEM + Families Science Grants sponsored by Bayer will award $1,000to 30 local PTAs to host a STEM + Families Science Festival, and $3,000to five State, District, Council or Region PTAs to partner with local PTAs in hosting Science Festivals. Learn more and apply.

STEM + Families Math Grants

Deadline: August 26, 2018

National PTA and Mathnasium are partnering to empower families to support student success and fill a critical gap in STEM education. The 2018 National PTA STEM + Families Math Grants sponsored by Mathnasium award local PTAs $1,000to host one STEM + Families Math event with students and families at their Elementary School. Learn more and apply.

Healthy Lifestyles Grants

Deadline: August 26, 2018

National PTA and GOYA-Move are partnering to support Healthy Lifestyles month by offering $1,000to 15 local PTAs who commit to hosting a “Get Off Your Apps” Physical Activity Event at their elementary and middle schools during the month of November. Learn more and apply.

Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awards

Deadline: Enroll in National PTA School of Excellence by October 1, 2018

The Phoebe Apperson Hearst Awardsfor innovation in family engagement, named after National PTA co-founder Phoebe Apperson Hearst, recognize and celebrate achievement in building effective family-school partnerships. The awards are presented to PTAs that have earned the National PTA School of Excellencedesignation and demonstrated outstanding success engaging families in student success and school improvements. The awards are the highest honor National PTA presents to effective family engagement. Become eligible by enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program between May 1 and October 1 at PTA.org/Excellence.

Toolkit Helps Parents Advocate for Teacher Training on Special Needs

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.

 

Handbook Helps Local Leaders Engage Districts on ESSA

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:

  1. Needs Assessments and Priority-Building
  2. School Improvement Strategies
  3. 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.

 

Engage for Education Equity Toolkit

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and Illinois’s ESSA implementation plan emphasize family engagement as a critical piece for improving student achievement. To help empower parents, families, caregivers, students, and other community members, the Dignity in Schools Campaign, Partners for Each and Every Child, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund have partnered to create the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit.

The toolkit provides resources, explanations, and processes to help stakeholders like PTAs engage with their school district’s implementation of ESSA to ensure that every child receives the quality education they deserve. The toolkit includes:

  • Fact sheets on various aspects of ESSA at the local level
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to engage with school administrators, create advocacy plans, and effectively advocate for your child
  • Letter templates for contacting decision-makers
  • Sample meeting materials
  • Case studies of effective engagement in school districts across the country
  • A glossary of education and ESSA-related terms so you can understand the terms used by school administrators

PTA has been an advocacy organization from its founding. When we advocate for children with our school districts, we can have a tremendous effect not just on our child’s school but also for all the children in our district. Take advantage of the Engage for Education Equity Toolkit, as school districts are creating their ESSA implementation plans now.