New Hour of Code Activity from National PTA & ThinkFun

Computer Science Education Week begins December 4th, and with it comes the Hour of Code program that Illinois PTA has covered before. We’ve also covered the importance of computer science education and computational thinking for students.

This year, as part of National PTA’s STEM + Families initiative, program partner ThinkFun has created an Hour of Code activity called Robot Repair. The activity uses fun puzzle solving to teach Boolean logic, a type of algebra that uses only TRUE and FALSE (or 1 and 0 in computers).

The activity has been approved as an official Hour of Code program and is available directly from the link above or through the activities list at Hour of Code. It can be done at home, or as part of a PTA Hour of Code program along with other exercises. If your PTA is considering an Hour of Code event, keep in mind that there are many activities available from the Hour of Code site that do not require an internet connection or even a computer or other device.

New Parent Guide on Education Data

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a dramatic change from the law it replaced, No Child Left Behind (NCLB). An important part of ESSA, as well as Illinois’s plan to implement the law, is the use of data to inform policymaking, to help teachers improve student achievement, and to aid families in supporting their child’s education. National PTA, in partnership with the Data Quality Campaign, has created a Parent Resource on Education Data.

The guide, a short one-page document, provides:

  • An explanation of what education data is
  • Examples of what data ESSA requires states and schools districts to collect and report
  • Questions to ask your school and district leaders about education data, how it is used, and how it can help you support your child
  • Information about how education can and can’t be used and who can access it

Be sure to read and share the Parent Resource on Education Data. PTAs should also consider working with their school or district to put on a workshop to help families understand education data and how they can use it to support their child’s education.

 

Parent Guides for the New Science Standards

You may be familiar with PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which highlight what your child will be learning in Math and English/Language Arts from kindergarten through high school. During the 2016-2017 school year, Illinois required the use of its new science standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Now the NGSS developers have created a series of parent guides to help families support their child’s science education. The guides cover what students will be learning in the four key areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and engineering design. The guides also give concrete examples of how the science students learn under the NGSS focus more on hands-on investigation and less on rote memorization. The guides are available for the following grades:

Check out the guide for your child’s grade level to learn more about what they will be learning in science and how you can help support them. Illinois families should also be aware that while the state conducted science assessments in both the spring of 2016 and 2017 for grades 5, 8, and 11, neither of those assessments have been scored due to the lack of a state budget. That means that families in Illinois have not seen how their student is doing in science since the ISAT science assessment given in spring 2014.

Financial Literacy Resources

April is Financial Literacy Month, and one of the three resolutions passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention called for the Illinois PTA to advocate for schools to incorporate financial literacy education into their existing curricula. Financial literacy is critical for students to acquire, as managing money, purchasing a car or house, saving for a child’s education and for retirement are all essential skills for adults. Add to that the challenge of managing student loan debt, which now exceeds credit card debt in the US, and students graduating from high school or college face far greater financial challenges than their parents did.

Here are some resources that PTAs, teachers, and school districts can use to incorporate financial literacy into their curricula aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards.

  • The University of Illinois Financial Literacy Program: Run by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Business school, these resources are primarily aimed at high school students and teachers. Among the resources is the University of Illinois Securities Exchange Simulation (UISES) that allows high school students to buy and sell equities just like real investors using the same web-based simulation that UIUC’s business school uses to teach undergraduates, MSF, and MBA students.
  • The Illinois Bankers Association: IBA resources include links to programs that help students build their financial literacy skills, including the US Federal Reserve’s education materials.
  • Council for Economic Education: The CEE has developed K-12 standards for financial literacy that are aligned with and connected to the Common Core State Standards (and thus the Illinois Learning Standards), allowing financial literacy materials to be used to teach to current standards. CEE also provides materials on assessing students’ financial literacy knowledge and skills as well as offering professional development materials to help teachers feel comfortable with the materials. Also available is the Financial Fitness for Life curriculum that has teacher, student, and parent guides.
  • National Education Association: The NEA teachers’ union provides resources for teaching financial literacy, including lesson plans, lesson sets, games, and background resources aimed directly at the teacher in the classroom.
  • Money as You Learn: Developed as part of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, Money as You Learn provides teachers with Common Core aligned texts, lessons, and tasks that connect the Common Core to real life applications while also equipping students with the knowledge needed to make smart financial decisions.
  • Junior Achievement: Junior Achievement has provided students with hands-on financial and economic experience for years. Junior Achievement programs could be incorporated into the classroom or run by a PTA as a separate program.
  • Making Cents: The Making Cents Project is a cooperative effort of the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Penn State University aimed at improving personal finance and economic education throughout the state. Though targeted at Pennsylvania, the project has archived webinars (both slides and videos) for teachers, curriculum resources, a model high school personal finance course, and research results on economic and financial literacy education.

Please share these resources with your school district and your principal, encourage them to use financial literacy materials to teach the Illinois Learning Standards they are already focused on, and consider how your PTA can support financial literacy education at your school through programs and events.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.