Trends in Education Parents Need to Know

July 24, 2018

Media Contacts:

  • Brad Waller, Vice President for Communications,
  • Michelle Eklund, Assistant Executive Director, 951-314-3707 or

With thousands of kids heading back to school starting as early as next week, California State PTA offers the top three trends in education during this back-to-school season.

Family engagement leads to student success. Research shows that authentic family engagement is a key factor in long-term student success – including better student attendance, higher graduation rates and increased student achievement. That’s why we’re proud to sponsor Assembly Bill 2878 (Chavez). This important measure is a family engagement bill that seeks to use research-based guidelines to define what authentic family engagement could look like in Education Code in order to guide schools, districts and county offices of education.

Safe children are better learners. We believe that every child is entitled to a safe and peaceful school environment that is orderly and empowering, in which students and staff are free to learn and teach without the threat of physical and psychological harm. When kids feel safe and secure, they can better focus on learning at school and in the home, and can achieve academic success.

It starts with attendance. Children need to be in school to learn – it’s that simple. If children don’t show up for school every day, they miss out on developing fundamental skills. Data shows children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are far less likely to read proficiently at the end of third grade. Parents and families are essential partners in making sure students attend school, and play a key role in identifying the barriers to attendance as well as what motivates students to go to school.

“Family engagement makes an amazing impact on student success, along with good attendance and school safety. These trends in education support our mission of support every child in California, both at school and in the home,” said California State PTA President Dianna MacDonald.

For more information on these trends and many more resources, visit

Understanding the Visual and Performing Arts Standards


California State PTA in partnership with Create CA is pleased to launch the newly revised Parents’ Guide to Arts Education in California Public Schools. This guide provides an overview of what your child will learn in the arts disciplines of dance, music, theatre and the visual arts by the end of each grade level.

By asking about the arts program at your child’s school, you are showing your interest in all students, not just the “talented,” having the opportunity to express their unique individuality through creating and learning in and through the arts.

The information is grouped into four sections:

Download the full guide here:



  • A snapshot of your child as they experience the arts in their classroom at each grade level.
  • A few key examples of what is typically taught in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts at each grade level to use as a starting point in talking to
    your child’s teacher.
  • Questions to ask the teacher about your child’s progress in arts learning and about the school’s arts program.
  • Ideas for what you can do to help your child learn in the arts at school, at home and in the community.
  • If you are interested in expanding or improving the visual and performing arts program at your child’s school, key resources for getting started are provided.

The arts learning examples in this guide are based on the Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools, the California Visual and Performing Arts Content Standards and the National Core Arts Standards. While standards in every subject area are revised over the years, if your child is being provided with the type of arts content suggested here in each grade, he or she will be well prepared for learning in the arts in each grade level.

“California State PTA is excited to provide this arts curriculum guide for parents and education advocates across California. In partnership with CREATE CA, California State PTA has put together a simple, easy-to-read guide of the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Standards by grade level. This guide, in conjunction

with the California Arts Education Data Project, will give parents and education advocates a snapshot of how a full arts curriculum advances student success socially, emotionally and academically.” – Celia Jaffe, President, California State PTA

Four Big Upgrades to California’s Public Schools

California’s K-12 public schools are undergoing an ambitious remodeling project, with a focus on ensuring all students, no matter who they are or what their circumstance, graduate high school ready to succeed in higher education, careers, and in life.

All of these changes work together locally to give parents, students, educators and communities more of a say in the ways education funding is spent in their school district, how priorities are set, and the strategies used to meet the unique needs of all students.

Upgrades include:

  1. High Learning Standards for All Students
  2. Student-Centered Funding
  3. Locally-Created Plans for Your District
  4. Measuring Local Progress.

Download the flier in English or Spanish.

How to Keep Kids Learning During Winter Break

The winter holiday break is a fun-filled time for you and your family to unwind and spend quality time together, but it will be over before you know it! Children’s school success begins at home, and even the simplest steps can mean a big difference for your child’s future. To keep your child’s skills sharp and ensure a smooth transition to going back to school, Scholastic offers tips to keep kids learning:

  • Read for pleasure. Whether your child is in the mood for holiday favorites like The Night Before Christmas or their favorite series, winter break is the perfect chance to stash the schoolbooks and have fun reading.
  • Cook up a lesson. Ask your child for help in the kitchen to whip up some treats. Using measurements is good math practice, especially in fractions!
  • Write thank-you notes. Whether your child is writing notes to gift-givers, teachers or neighbors, this is a great way to practice penmanship, spelling and grammar – plus, it teaches gratitude.
  • Let kids help with online shopping. Need a last minute gift? Help your child shop online with you to help them work on computer and research skills.
  • Maintain reasonable bedtimes. With no school to wake up early for, it’s tempting to let your child become a night owl. A few days before school starts again, ease back into the regular schedule.
  • Have a family game night. Chances are many of your family’s favorite card and board games reinforce skills like reading, counting and drawing. Gather your family to play games you don’t have time for on school nights.
  • Make the most of car rides. Turn the drive to or from holiday gatherings into a fun opportunity to learn. You can look for license plates from different states, count the number of red or green cars you see or play license plate bingo!

Read more ways to keep skills sharp during winter break at, and learn how to support learning at home at

Family Engagement Equals Student Success

August 7, 2017

Media Contacts:

California State PTA Highlights Six Ways Parents Can Get Involved This School Year

SACRAMENTO – Millions of children head back to school this month and parents across California have numerous opportunities to have a voice and make a difference for their child and school. Research shows family engagement equals student success and as the connector between families, schools and communities, California State PTA highlights the importance of family engagement and offers six key ways for parents to get involved and make a difference.

Six Ways Parents Can Get Involved

Parent involvement can mean many things, such as reading to your child before bed or asking questions about their homework. It can also mean attending school activities or communicating with your child’s teachers.

  • Model positive parenting and support learning at home.
    Develop effective parenting skills and seek to better understand child and adolescent development. Create a home environment that supports learning by establishing a quiet place for homework and setting a regular time for studying. Talk with your child about college and future careers.
  • Learn more about your child’s school and communicate with educators.
    Attend Back-to-School Night and parent-teacher conferences. Find out how to take advantage of your school’s translation and interpretation services. Make time to read newsletters, memos and notices from the school. Ask your school if it offers California State PTA’s School Smarts Parent Engagement Program, and if not, ask about bringing it to your school community.
  • Help out at school or join PTA.
    Look at ways to volunteer in the classroom or other ways you can help prepare or organize classroom materials at home. Find out about participating in school organizations, initiatives and school committees such as PTA, School Site Council or English Learner Advisory Committees (ELAC). Help with a school-wide event or accompany your child’s class on a field trip. Remember: just joining PTA shows that you support your child and their school.
  • Engage in the decision-making, leadership and advocacy efforts at your school.
    Learn about and participate in the various school, district, or community decision-making bodies. Parent input is critical! Learn more about your school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the eight priority areas that help all children succeed. Consider taking on a leadership role in speaking up for all children – at your PTA, at the school and beyond.
  • Be familiar with what your child will be expected to learn and how he or she will be assessed as part of the new state standards.
    Attend meetings and/or read more about the new California State Standards and how they will help prepare students for the future. Find out more about the new statewide assessement program and how your child’s score will look and what if means for their progress. Talk to your child’s teachers to understand how learning may look different in the classroom and how you can best support your child.
  • Take advantage of community resources.
    Ask your school about free or low-cost community health, cultural and social support programs. Find out about after-school enrichment programs, tutoring and free library programs that are available to you and your family.

Six Ways to Engage Families in ESSA

Parents and their children are the consumers of our nation’s public education system, and parents have always been essential partners in education. However, they haven’t always been included at the decision-making table. This has caused confusion, mistrust and backlash when new initiatives — whether at the federal, state or local level—have been considered and implemented.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides a unique opportunity for parents and families to give their input and to hold states and districts accountable for their children’s educational experience.

National PTA has identified six critical ways states, school districts and schools should be engaging parents and families as part of ESSA or any new education initiative. Use the rubric on the back to evaluate how your state, school district and school are doing!

Harvard Family Research Project

fi_in_early_childhoodFamily Involvement Makes a Difference is a set of research briefs from the Harvard Family Research Project that examines one set of complementary learning linkages: family involvement in the home and school. The briefs in this series examine family involvement in early childhood, elementary school, and middle and high school settings. Taken together, these briefs make the case that family involvement predicts children’s academic achievement and social development as they progress from early childhood programs through K–12 schools and into higher education.

Download the research briefs.

Seeing Is Believing: Promising Practices for How School Districts Promote Family Engagement

seeingisbelievingHarvard Family Research Project (HFRP) and the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) have teamed up to bring you this ground-breaking policy brief that examines the role of school districts in promoting family engagement.

Seeing is Believing: Promising Practices for How School Districts Promote Family Engagement spotlights how six school districts across the country have used innovative strategies to create and sustain family-engagement “systems at work.”  Our findings point to three core components of these successful systems: creating district-wide strategies, building school capacity, and reaching out to and engaging families.

Drawing from districts’ diverse approaches, we highlight promising practices to ensure quality, oversight, and impact from their family engagement efforts. We also propose a set of recommendations for how federal, state, and local policies can promote district-level family engagement efforts that support student learning.

Key policy recommendations include:

  • Creating infrastructure for district-wide leadership for family engagement
  • Building district capacity for family engagement through training and technical assistance
  • Ensuring reporting, learning, and accountability for family engagement
  • Helping districts understand, design, and implement strong evaluation strategies.

Read this report to learn how to:

  • Help administrators, educators, parents, community members, and policymakers understand that family engagement is a shared responsibility
  • Approach family engagement by fostering district-wide strategies, building school capacity, and reaching out to families
  • Compare your district’s family engagement strategies to an emerging set of promising practices
  • Talk with stakeholders about ways that public policies can support district-level family engagement efforts.

Family Engagement Practices in CA Schools

PPICReportA recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) identifies promising family engagement strategies from a review of 15 high-need districts in the state, noting that effective strategies are culturally appropriate and aim to support student learning at home.

Engagement and Empowerment at Walt Whitman Elementary

waltwhitmanelementary_websitePTA members and volunteers like Walt Whitman Elementary School PTA President Sue Salorio are true change-agents, creating local programs that go on to touch – and engage – entire communities.

Walt Whitman Elementary in San Diego (Ninth District PTA) held its first-ever School Smarts Parent Engagement Program last school year. Salorio, a home-hospital special-education teacher and School Smarts parent graduate, worked alongside other parents to develop an action plan designed to increase family engagement on-campus. The result…a new parent center scheduled to debut in late January 2016.

“Parents really wanted someplace where they could go get more information on how to help their student with homework and understanding the new state standards,” Salorio said. “Some of our parents are not English speakers, so we wanted a place where we could offer to learn how to speak English on the computer, as well as a place to be used for students and families who do not have Internet access at home.”

Salorio noted that, while parents received key support from school personnel, the families are fully engaged in leading the effort.

“Parents take the lead as to how the plan is going to be rolled out,” she said, noting that PTA members regularly meet with the principal and other staff to ensure the process is moving forward smoothly for all involved.

“Parents worked together as a team to decide what they wanted the new parent center to be,” added San Diego Unified Council PTA President Celeste Bobryk-Ozaki. “The center is becoming a symbol of how parents can be part of a grassroots effort and demonstrates the impact of what parent involvement can do for a school.”

As Salorio and the school community gear up for the parent center’s January 2016 grand opening, PTA members and School Smarts graduates are planning even more activities to strengthen family and community engagement. To create similar engagement changes, Salorio encourages other PTAs to work with schools as best allies and to start with a plan and keep communication going for team success.

And her encouragement for parents?

“Come and be the change you want to see!”