Help Your Child Develop Financial Literacy

As part of Illinois PTA’s continuing effort to implement the Resolution on Financial Literacy passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we have been providing local units and councils with information to share with their families on the topic. A new financial literacy resource, Better Money Habits, has been created through a partnership of Bank of America and Khan Academy.

The Better Money Habits website offers families a variety of topics specifically concerning children and money. Among the topics are:

  • Top questions kids ask about money (and how to answer)
  • How teens manage their money: What parents need to know
  • How to establish money rules for your child at any age
  • Teachable money moments for your child

The partnership with Khan Academy includes a collection of videos focused on careers that ask young adults in those jobs how they are handling their personal and professional financial responsibilities. The videos provide insight into what their job duties are and what their typical day is like. Careers highlighted in the videos include:

  • Salon Owner
  • Firefighter
  • Architectural Designer
  • Commercial Pilot
  • Education Resource Specialist
  • Senior Product Manager

Check out the Better Money Habits section on children and money, the Khan Academy videos, and the Better Money Habits website as a whole to help your child improve their financial literacy and prepare for a life after high school graduation.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

Engaging Teens at School

As high schools work to improve their graduation rate, a new study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute highlights how teens engage with their schools. The report, What Teens Want from Their Schools, presents the results of a survey of over 2,000 high schools students. The authors of the study have also provided a short video summary of the results of the survey and a five-question quiz to find out how engaged your teen is at school.

The survey results indicated that nearly all students report being motivated to work academically, but found that they engaged with school in different ways. The study identified six subgroups that engaged with their school in specific ways. Those groups are:

  1. Subject Lovers (19%): These students are more likely to be white males and place in the top quarter of their class. They are more likely than their peers to report that academic classes and clubs are their favorite things about school; they are more likely to take AP, Math, science, and technology classes; and they are least likely to say they are bored in class.
  2. Emotionals (18%): These students are equally divided between male and female, but are more likely to be white, urban, and from a high-poverty home. They express a strong need for connection at the school level, and if given a choice, would prefer a smaller school with fewer students who all know each other. Compared to their peers, they report they are less likely to follow the rules at their school or feel safe at school. They also report that they are not doing as well as their peers academically and report being less motivated than them as well. This places them in danger of falling through the cracks if their school doesn’t engage them emotionally.
  3. Hand Raisers (17%): These students are more likely to be female and less likely to come from high-poverty homes. They are engaged, work hard, and participate in class, but report that they don’t spend much time on homework or extracurricular activities. They are the least likely among their peers to say that they pretend to work, zone out, or let their mind wander in class. They are least likely to engage with after school clubs. In focus groups, these students said they were engaged in the classroom, but tended to unplug from school life once the final bell rings. They enjoy active participation in class, but tend not to form deep personal relationships with teachers and staff.
  4. Social Butterflies (16%): These students are more likely to feel that they belong at school and enjoy the social aspects of school (e.g., watching or taking part in sports, catching up with peers). The majority of them say their favorite things at school are “hanging out with friends” or “lunch time.” Among students who reported really connecting with an adult at school, these students were most likely to identify a coach as that adult.
  5. Teacher Responders (15%): Similar to the hand raisers, these students are slightly more likely to be female and not from high-poverty households. They differ from the hand raisers in that they value close relationships with teachers and other adults at school and do best when they feel teachers are invested in them both academically and personally. They are most likely to really connect with an adult at school, and that adult is most likely to be a teacher. They are group most satisfied with their school. The potential concern with these students is that if they don’t connect with a teacher, they can check out in class.
  6. Deep Thinkers (15%): These students are more likely to be female, and half are non-white. They are the most cognitively engaged group of students, but unlike those in other groups, has no other primary engagement method. They listen carefully, like to figure things out on their own, think deeply when taking tests, and complete their assignments. They are the least likely group to give their current school and “A” rating. They also report being dissatisfied with their teachers and the structure of the school day (e.g., starting too early or block scheduling). About one-third report that they have considered dropping out of high school.

The study provides further proof that there is no one way to engage students, and that using any specific approach is likely to disengage other students.

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: Special Education

The National PTA Legislative Checklist calls for the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) that further supports and improves the lives of more than 6.5 million eligible children, from infants through youth. Reauthorization must:

  • Include a statutory definition of family engagement in education based on National Standards for Family-School Partnerships within section 602 of IDEA.
  • Provide greater protections for the rights of children with special needs, as well as their families, to ensure access to resources and supports for high-quality education.
  • Require transition planning for qualifying students to begin no later than age 14, incentivizing school districts to employ appropriate staff to deliver services.
  • Support the inclusion of behavioral intervention plans in a student’s IEP and 504b plan.

One of the fundamentals of IDEA is the inclusion of Procedural Safeguards designed to enumerate the rights of both the student and family, and the school district when determining appropriate educational programs for students with special needs. These safeguards include, but are not limited to:

  • The parents’ right to receive a complete explanation of all the procedural safeguards, the method of submitting any complaints, and the mechanism for resolving disputes,
  • The right to confidentiality
  • The right to review in its entirety a student’s educational record
  • The right to participate in meetings to identify, evaluate, or place a student in a particular educational program, including the provisions of a free appropriate education for the student (FAPE)
  • The right to obtain an independent educational evaluation
  • The right to prior written notice on matters relating to the student
  • The right to give or deny consent before the school make take certain action with regard to the student
  • The right to disagree with decisions made by the school system

The Illinois PTA recognizes that the educational environment for students with special needs, as defined within the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), must consider the needs of the student as part of the planning process. One critical element of assessing student needs continues to be funding. Item 3c of the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform calls for full funding of all mandated educational and special programs so that all students will have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This position is expanded in Item 3g of the platform which calls for adequate appropriations for the education of special needs students.

In addition, we support the development of Social and Emotional Learning Standards (SEL) which provide content, skills, evaluation, and assessment at age appropriate levels as part of the curricula crafted by Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

ESSA, Family Engagement, and Your PTA

Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) continues to make progress, with the US Department of Education approving Illinois’s ESSA plan. In Congress, the House of Representatives has included funding for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in its appropriations bill. With the approval of the Illinois ESSA plan, attention now turns to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), or school districts in non-legalese, who must create their own ESSA implementation plans using the guidance of the state plan.

PTA’s Role in Planning

During the development of the state ESSA plan, Illinois PTA represented families in many of the committees and working groups that were developing various parts of the plan. Now that school districts are developing their plans, PTA councils and local PTA units have a role to play as well. ESSA requires that all stakeholders, including families, be included in the planning process, and PTAs are uniquely able to fill that role.

PTA councils and units should start the process by letting their school superintendent and school board know that they are interested in being involved in developing the district’s ESSA plan. Your school district should be supportive, as family and community engagement is one of the core elements of the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure (IBAM) that will measure how schools are doing overall. IBAM replaces the test-score-only approach of measuring a school’s success under No Child Left Behind.

For those who serve on school district committees for PTA, it is important to remember that they are representing PTA and families, not their personal opinion. The National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, ESSA advocacy tools, and ESSA Local Roadmap can help support your efforts. From Illinois PTA, our legislative platform provides information on our positions, and Education Issues Director Kelli Denard can help with questions you might have. Finally, Partners for Each and Every Child and the Council of Chief State School Officers jointly developed a handbook to help school districts and school leaders cooperate to effectively implement ESSA at the local level.

PTA’s Role in Family Engagement

Illinois has its Family Engagement Framework to help local districts implement effective family engagement practices. The four principles of the framework parallel the six National Standards for Family-School Partnerships developed by National PTA. National PTA has additional resources in its Family Engagement Toolbox.

Even if your PTA is not interested in getting involved with your school district’s ESSA plan development, you can be involved in improving family engagement in your school. The National PTA School of Excellence program has a proven track record of improving family engagement. Illinois PTA has highlighted the success that Kreitner Elementary PTA had in becoming a School of Excellence in 2016.

If you’re interested in making your school a School of Excellence this year, the signup deadline is October 1, 2017. Don’t delay, sign up today.