Reflections student artists are joined on stage by National PTA President Otha Thorton (center), PCAH Executive Director Rachel Goslins (seventh from right), members of the PTA Reflections Committee, and National PTA staff.
On Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Department was privileged to host the opening of an exhibit of art works by winners of the National PTA’s 2014 Reflections Program competition. For nearly half a century, the National PTA has inspired millions of students to become involved in the arts through Reflections, and each year many of the winners are recognized at the Department in its Student Art Exhibit Program with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open an exhibit of their work. This year’s exhibit includes 65 works by K–12 students from across the country and in U.S. schools abroad on the theme The Magic of a Moment. Writing, dance and film are also showcased in the exhibit.
Haley Young’s cat was the inspiration for her award-winning collage, “The Cat Who Smells Flowers.”
Acting Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton welcomed guests to the Department and delivered the important message that arts education matters for “every school and every child.” As Shelton pointed out, “The research is clear that art helps our kids do better at everything.” This includes the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Shelton reflected that not only does art tell a child’s personal story, but it also gives the U.S. a vital leading edge over other nations in “creativity, design, and innovation.”
PTA President Otha Thornton explained that the PTA’s mission is to engage parents to make sure their students’ education is challenging and rewarding. A way to do this, he said, reiterating Shelton’s message, includes adding “the A” for art to STEM, and bringing STEAM to every school’s curricula. The arts in education, Thornton said, “[help] students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication skills that the core subjects can’t foster alone.”
Student artists cut the official ribbon to open the PTA Reflections exhibit to the public and ED employees in the headquarters lobby. Official Department of Education photo by Paul Wood.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program partnered with the National PTA Reflections program for the sixth time to host the opening of a new exhibit at the Department’s headquarters titled “Diversity Means.” For the past 44 years, the Reflections program has allowed millions of students across the country and at American schools overseas to unite around a common theme and compete in one of six mediums: dance choreography, film production, music composition, literature, photography, and visual arts.
Guests attending the exhibit opening included student Reflections winners, families of the students, local and national PTA members and staff, teachers, Department of Education staff, and arts enthusiasts. Student winners traveled from Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina, as well as nearby Maryland and Virginia to be honored in Washington D.C. For many of the students in attendance, this was their first time visiting the nation’s capital and an experience of a lifetime.
The Parents as Teachers National Center’s BabyFace project, an i3 Validation grantee, will be featured in a Rural Schools Innovations Webinar series hosted by the Rural School and Community Trust on June 13, 2012. The i3 project is using the home-based services of the successful Family and Child Education (FACE) program in 22 Bureau of Indian Education schools to serve high-needs American Indian families and children ages prenatal to three years. The goal is to narrow the achievement gap between American Indian and non-American Indian children at kindergarten and to improve student achievement in reading and math through third grade. For news and information on the Department of Education’s rural education outreach and resources, click here.
How can federally funded grant programs continue to implement time-tested strategies when federal funding ends? That was the central question at the recent 2011 national conference of the Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs). In May 2011, the PIRCs learned that their program would not be funded beyond this fall. The Parental Options and Information (POI) Office in the Office of Innovation and Improvement quickly geared up to bring the PIRC leaders together to learn strategies for sustainability and for sharing data and their successes.
Like other areas of education innovation, there are no silver bullets when it comes to pressing questions of how best to engage parents and families, particularly in high-need schools, in order to raise student achievement. But there are informative studies as well as researchers and practitioners on the front lines of family engagement who possess insights that can point the way. With the prospect of doubling the amount of Title I funds set aside for parental and family engagement, promising policies and practices that can be pursued and brought to scale in this area of education reform are more important than ever before.
Dr. Karen Mapp, lecturer on education and director of the Education Policy and Management Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has joined the Office of Parental Options and Information (POI) as a consultant to explore a number of pressing issues of both policy and practice – ones that will inform and improve not only POI’s work, but also the broader policy framework of parental and family engagement as it applies to Title I and other nationwide federal school improvement efforts.