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.

National PTA School of Excellence Sign-Ups Open Now

Show your community that something important is happening at your school—a new kind of welcoming process that extends beyond the building and into the homes of families who now feel prepared to help support their child’s success.

Become a National PTA School of Excellence! This recognition program supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being of all students. Enroll at PTA.org/Excellence between now and October 1.

What does it take to be recognized as a National PTA School of Excellence?

By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment in identifying and implementing an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Schools that exhibit improvement are honored as National PTA Schools of Excellence, a distinction that spans two years.

As a National PTA School of Excellence, your PTA and school will gain local, national and statewide recognition. On top of that, your PTA will be eligible to earn the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Award. This is National PTA’s highest honor recognizing effective family engagement strategies and includes a $2,000 grant.

Enroll Today!

Visit PTA.org/Excellence or call (800) 307-4782 for assistance.

The Importance of Teacher Leadership for Student Success

It’s sometimes said that teachers reach the pinnacle of their career the first day they walk into their classroom. Unless they wanted to go into administration, a classroom teacher had no advancement track. But that is changing in many school districts as they begin to embrace teacher leadership.

What is Teacher Leadership?

Teacher leadership can take many forms and will vary from district to district or even school to school. The National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) helped to create the Teacher Leader Model Standards. These standards spell out seven domains where teachers can be leaders while remaining in the classroom:

  1. Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning
  2. Accessing and Using Research to Improve Practice and Student Learning
  3. Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement
  4. Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning
  5. Promoting the Use of Assessments and Data for School and District Improvement
  6. Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community
  7. Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession

In Illinois, the Illinois Teacher Leadership Network (ITLN), of which Illinois PTA is a member, is working to help define teacher leadership in Illinois, to help the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recognize teacher leadership, and to help school districts implement teacher leadership.

Many school districts may already be implementing some types of teacher leadership without formally calling it that. In some districts, this is a necessity because there may not be separate staff available to fill some roles. In others, it may be due to the district’s recognizing the importance of teacher mentors, the need to improve professional development or instruction, or the desire to use the additional data schools are collecting to improve student outcomes.

Why is Teacher Leadership Important?

Teacher leadership provides opportunities for teachers to grow in their profession without leaving the classroom that they love. In districts where teacher leadership is being embraced, teachers are happier with their school, which means there is less teacher turnover.

A recent report by the New Teacher Center on the effect of teacher leadership on student achievement provided research-based results identifying how these two are linked. The report, called School Leadership Counts, notes that:

  • Students perform better in schools with the highest levels of instructional and teacher leadership.
  • Involving teachers in the decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct result in higher student achievement.
  • High-poverty schools often lack teacher leadership elements that improve student achievement, which limits students’ potential at those schools.

What Role Do Parents and PTAs Have with Teacher Leadership?

It’s important to remember that Domain VI of the Teacher Leader Model Standards focuses on improving outreach and collaboration with families and communities. PTAs and their families can encourage their school and district administration to learn about and implement teacher leadership as a way of improving student achievement. They can also work with their administration to help improve family engagement through programs such as the National PTA School of Excellence. Finally, it is important to recognize that schools and districts that embrace teacher leadership and including teachers in the decision-making processes are also schools and districts that are likely to embrace parent leadership and inclusion in decision-making.

Learn More at the Illinois PTA Convention

Steven Elza, the 2015 Illinois State Teacher of the Year and an ITLN member, will be presenting a workshop on teacher leadership at the Illinois PTA Convention on Saturday, May 5th. Don’t miss out on this and other great workshops. Register for convention today!

Photo courtesy US Air Force/Kelly Deichert.

National PTA Launches Center for Family Engagement

Last week, National PTA announced the launch of the Center for Family Engagement, a new initiative to embed transformative family engagement practices, programs and policies across the educational system.

“We know families are essential to children’s success and school improvement efforts. However, traditional family engagement policies and practices do not always meet the needs of each and every family, nor empower them as partners in their child’s success,” said Leslie Boggs, President-Elect of National PTA. “As the needs of families change, we must shift the way we think about family engagement. Through our new Center for Family Engagement, we want to move the educational system to the next generation of family engagement by modeling and advocating for more transformative approaches.”

Over the next three years, the Center for Family Engagement will:

  • Raise awareness about transformative family engagement by acting as a clearinghouse of innovative approaches, cutting-edge research and best practices that can be put into action.
  • Influence transformative family engagement decisions and resources by contributing to a national research agenda on how parent voice shapes family engagement practices, programs and policies.
  • Empower PTAs across the country to be leaders in transformative family engagement efforts through grant and recognition opportunities as well as connections to other leading family engagement organizations.

As part of the launch of the Center for Family Engagement, National PTA also announced today that Ohio PTA, New York State PTA, Minnesota PTA, Tennessee PTA, and Oklahoma PTA have been selected to receive a grant through its State PTA Family Engagement Innovation Challenge. With the grant, the state PTAs will identify examples of innovative family engagement practices in their local PTAs and school communities and develop plans to integrate these best practices into statewide efforts and advocacy for family engagement. Among the five PTAs, one will be selected to receive additional funding to implement their plan.

“When it comes to school success, family engagement is just as important as having a great principal and teachers, a strong curriculum and a positive school climate. Transformative family engagement is a key strategy to ensure every child receives a high-quality education and has every opportunity for success,” added President-Elect Boggs. “Family engagement is the foundation of PTA and we are investing in our mission with the Center for Family Engagement.”

For more information about the Center for Family Engagement, visit PTA.org/FamilyEngagement. While there, you can sign up for quarterly updates.