Friday, March 4, 2016

I’m Opting Out of Opt-Out

Source: National PTA's One Voice Blog
This blog post was originally published on the Huffington Post.

With the arrival of spring comes assessment season for students, families and educators across the country. When my girls were in grade school, I remember dedicating time to helping them be confident and ready to take state tests. I also remember some feelings of anxiety before the tests, but at the same time, the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.
During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments.

Understandably, many parents and educators have concerns about the over emphasis on testing and the impact it is having on teaching and learning. Speaking up and taking action is a critical step to improve the overall education system and ensure every child has the opportunity to reach his/her full potential. However, National PTA does not believe that full scale assessment opt-out is an effective strategy to address the frustration over testing or that opting-out helps to improve a given assessment instrument. Mass opt-out comes at a real cost to the goals of educational equity and individual student achievement while leaving the question of assessment quality unanswered.

The consequences of non-participation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools. Non-participation can result in a loss of funding, diminished resources and decreased interventions for students. Such ramifications would impact minorities and students with special needs disparately, thereby widening the achievement gap.
For example, states like New York that did not meet the participation requirement last school yearreceived a letter stating that funding–including for English language learners, students with disabilities and other students in need–could be at risk if they have less than 95% participation on exams this spring. Opting out also stalls innovation by inhibiting effective monitoring and improvement of programs, exams and instructional strategies, and could thwart transparency by providing incomplete data for states, districts and schools.

Recognizing the concerns parents and educators have about testing, and the importance of improving assessment systems, National PTA’s Board of Directors recently adopted a position statement on assessment. The statement acknowledges the importance of eliminating unnecessary and low-quality assessments while protecting the vital role that good assessments play in measuring student progress so parents and educators have the best information to support teaching and learning, improve outcomes and ensure equity for all children.

While some will solely focus on the statement’s opposition to opt-out policies, when read in its entirety, the statement provides a holistic approach to improving assessment systems. National PTA advocates for improved assessment systems by recommending that states and districts: (1) ensure appropriate development; (2) guarantee reliability and implementation of high quality assessments; (3) clearly articulate to parents the assessment and accountability system in place at their child’s school and (4) bring schools and families together to use the data to support student growth and learning.

National PTA strongly advocates for and continues to support increased inclusion of the parent voice in educational decision making at all levels. Parents and families must be at the table when policymakers are considering policies that affect students. National PTA believes in the power of parents making their voices heard and being a part of the solution through engagement. As vice president of advocacy for the association, I have witnessed the ability of families and schools to come together and make true, meaningful improvement through robust dialogue, deliberate investment and thoughtful consensus.

Now is the time for all of us to work together to ensure assessments are executed properly and provide valuable information to parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of students as they are intended to do. We must be effective stewards of education for our nation’s children by improving assessment systems, not opting children out of the system that should be for their benefit.

Shannon Sevier is vice president of advocacy for National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association dedicated to ensuring all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Sevier is a proud mother of two high school students and a college student.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

An Event to Seek New Members (Volunteers)

Set up a membership table at all school events!

Since 2002 parents, teachers, school nurses, custodians, advocates, and agencies have promoted National Healthy Schools Day activities nationwide. Whether you are at the beginning stages of investigating school environments or have an established Indoor Air/Environmental Quality program, we invite you to host a local activity that educates others and celebrates your school’s successes.
National Healthy Schools Day is coordinated by Healthy Schools Network in partnership with many agencies and organizations.  Together we promote the use of EPA's IAQ Tools for Schools guidance as well as other EPA environmental health guidelines and programs for schools and children’s health.

Healthy Schools Day is an opportunity to educate communities, improve school environments, and celebrate past achievements by hosting local activities. Over the last 6 years, there have been over 350 events nationwide.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Income Tax Fraud: File Early to Reduce Your Risk

Income tax fraud is on the rise. According to CNBC, the total amount stolen from taxpayers may hit $21 billion in 2016, up from “just” $6.5 billion in 2013.

Federal and state agencies have invested in new technology to thwart fraudsters, but security reporterBrian Krebs reports identity thieves are already testing those defenses.
Why is the problem so bad? LifeLock’s expert Nada Baiz says a big reason is because filing a fraudulent tax return is relatively easy. All you need is a name, date of birth and Social Security number. That’s it! All of the other details— address, employment, salary and refund information —can be made up by the criminal.
Baiz says with all the data breaches we’ve seen lately, criminals can easily find the necessary sensitive information—possibly yours—to file a fraudulent return. Here are a couple of tips that’ll help you get through tax season unscathed:
• The best preventive measure against income tax fraud is to beat the criminal to the punch. File your income taxes ASAP. That way, the fraudster will be the one receiving the message that the IRS already accepted a tax return with your Social Security number.
• Do your homework and research your CPA or your tax prep software. You want to be sure you are filing taxes with a trusted professional tax preparer— one who is properly licensed and has a positive clientele history. The same is true for the software that you are using. Make sure it follows safety protocols.
Take advantage of LifeLock’s protection plans. As a proud supporter of National PTA, LifeLock is offering all PTA members and their families a very special offer. Learn more about the offer.
You can also visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and Internal Revenue Service websites for additional resources.

Source: National PTA's One Voice Blog

Cory Warren is the blog editor of LifeLock UnLocked

Monday, February 29, 2016

Angela's Advice...PTA vs. PTSA

Parent-Teacher-Student Association
  • ·         PTSA is usually present in the High School buildings but do not be afraid to introduce it at the Middle School Level
  • ·         Allow Students to hold board positions (with the exception of Treasurer) to help cultivate future leaders for PTA as well as other organizations; Recording or Corresponding Secretary would be a good fit for a student depending on which building level you are working with as would committees like Legislation, Talent Show, etc.
  • ·         Hold Mock Elections to introduce the students to Parliamentary Procedure and the nominating and election process
  • ·         Having a Back to School Bash or some kind of social gathering for the students early on in the year and maybe again mid-year would be a great way to recruit student members.  The cost they would pay to enter the event can become their membership dues.
  • ·         Listen to the voice of the student members to help guide your program selection for the year as well as what other resources you can provide that would benefit the student body
When we think of March Madness, we think of the college basketball teams competing to move forward in their divisions. We all wait to see which teams will fill the brackets each day and advance to the Final Four. I challenge you to think of Membership in the same way. Perhaps you have met your goal of a 5% increase or more; perhaps you are still working on it. Everyone has an equal chance of fighting for a spot in the PTA Final Four.

This month, we would like to present another unit Membership Challenge! Turn in 16 more members in the month of March and be entered into a drawing to win a cash prize for your unit to be announced at Convention! Why 16 you ask? The tournament starts with the “Sweet Sixteen” teams and so we will have a goal of 16 Sweet New Members per unit! You will receive one entry for every 16 new members. Turn in 32 members, get two entries, 48 members gets you three entries, etc. Invite people to be a part of your Sweet Sixteen and help your unit and Ohio PTA achieve the championship.

The prizes for our “Final Four” will be $100, $50, and two $25 prizes! We set a goal for this year of 70,000 members and we are at just about 85% of that goal!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Share The Ohio PTA Voice March 2016 Issue

We hope you are gearing up to attend the 110th Ohio PTA Convention and Exhibition! Your attendance is vital to voice your opinion on a number of proposed bylaw changes.

Vendor Application 2016 Ohio PTA Convention

The Ohio PTA cordially invites you to join us for our 110th Annual
Ohio PTA Convention and Exhibition on April 8 - 10, on the Upper