In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by saying that I am not a member of the NYS PTA. I have been a member of the parent group at each of my children’s schools as well as of our local District Wide Parents’ Council. I have also served as an officer of several of the local parent groups including being the current president of the Kingston High School Parents Association. I think the parent group was a PTA when my oldest child started elementary school but then the parent group became a PTO and all the rest have been PTOs or PAs.
I have always found the legislative/political advocacy component of the PTA concerning because what if a local parent or even a local PTA group does not agree with the stand that the state/national PTA advocacy arm decides to take? Well this has happened. Many parents are opposed to Common Core but the NYS PTA (and the national PTA) decided to lend their “strong support” to Common Core.
This summer PTA blog written by past president Lana Ajemian (the new president is Bonnie Russell) laments how few parents joined the PTA in the 2013-2014 school year. Perhaps it might have something to do with the fact that the NYS PTA is not representing most parents on the thing that matters most – Common Core?!? If you read information from the New York State PTA, they actively promote support of the Common Core Standards and disparage those who have concerns with Common Core. In fact they received an award in 2014 for their support of Common Core!
PTA Outstanding State Advocacy Award (2014)
New York State PTA is being honored with this award for their work to educate families, teachers, and communities about the Common Core State Standards. As a result of New York State PTA’s consistent support of the standards, they were asked to collaborate with the New York Education Commissioner on supporting family understanding of the standards. New York State PTA partnered with the New York State United Teachers to craft the Parent’s Guide to Common Core Learning, released in July 2013. To date, the brochure has been distributed to thousands of individuals around the state. New York State PTA also created the “Hear Our Voice” campaign, a highly successful effort to educate and engage families around the Common Core standards.
A couple bloggers made suggestions during the 2013-2014 school year for what local parent groups who are concerned about the state PTA support of Common Core might wish to do. This blog suggests reorganizing from a PTA to a PTO. The second blog includes a letter indicating that the family will make a donation to the local parent group (to show local support) but not become a member of the PTA because the family does not wish to support the state/national PTA which supports Common Core. Both blog pieces contain explanations about why the authors feel the NYS PTA should NOT support Common Core (ie the problems with Common Core) as well as descriptions of their local involvement as parents and kudos to their local PTAs for the great work being done. These are not parents who are trying to discourage parent involvement!
Carol Burris reports here that the NYS PTA is still, as of November 2014, not listening to local members and is supporting Common Core and rejecting resolutions against high-stakes testing. She writes:
It is a recurring narrative about how the leadership in so many education organizations is more responsive to those in power than to those whom they represent. In this regard this organization is hardly alone. I suspect that many leaders at this time of “full steam ahead”’ reform are so anxious to keep their seat at the table that they do not want to alienate those who serve the dinner.
The New York State PTA has the right to reject the resolutions of the Niagara Region PTA. Perhaps they fundamentally disagree and support the state’s test-based reform agenda. They may honestly believe it is in the best interest of kids. If that is the case, then it is up to the rank and file of the organization to change the leadership, or be content with the status quo.
By the way the Niagara Region high-stakes testing resolution that Carol Burris follows in her article, and which the NYS PTA never accepted, is what introduced me to the issues associated with high-stakes testing. From there I discovered all of the problems with Common Core so I owe a big THANK YOU to the Niagara PTA members!
Please be active with your local parent groups but make sure that any parent groups you are a part of, whether at the local, state or national level, are representing you (and using your membership dues) in the way that you want to be represented on issues important to you.