School & District Management

PTA Launches Campaign Backing Common Standards

By Sean Cavanagh — December 08, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A national organization, with philanthropic backing, is launching a campaign to build support for common academic standards among a potentially influential constituency: parents.

The National PTA has received a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to organize parent support for setting more uniform academic expectations in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

The undertaking is one of several examples of how backers of the Common Core State Standards Initiative are trying to lay a foundation for those documents’ adoption—and their eventual use—in districts and classrooms.

The National PTA, which has 5.2 million members, could expand its efforts beyond those four states by the middle of next year.

Parents tend to be a “forgotten voice at the table,” said Erin Hart, the director of strategic alliances, partnerships, and programs for the Chicago-based National PTA. “We’re interested in holding the school districts accountable and being the collective voice of the community that says, ‘This is important.’ ”

Forty-eight states have agreed to work on creating more consistent academic standards through the common-core project, as opposed to the motley assortment set by states today. The venture is being led by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association.

What remains unclear is whether state and local officials will support the final standards documents. The PTA’s effort is aimed at winning them over.

The National PTA’s state and local affiliates will try to persuade boards of education—the decision making body on standards in most states—to adopt the documents, Ms. Hart said. It will also urge its members to make the case for standards among parents and school communities. In addition, PTA members will ask state, district, and school officials to take steps to ensure that the standards are used to improve instruction by supporting teachers through professional development and other means, she added.

Other Allies

Other organizations that have voiced support for the common-core project, meanwhile, are taking steps to get the word out.

The 1.4 million-member American Federation of Teachers plans to partner with the Council of the Great City Schools, a Washington organization that advocates improved urban education, on a pilot project to examine how the standards can be implemented. The project will focus on a number ofdistricts, looking at issues such as aligning professional development with the standards that emerge, Patricia Sullivan of the aft, said at a forum on the common-standards effort, held in Washington last week.

At the same event, Brenda Wellburn, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, in Arlington, Va., said her organization will stage four regional conferences next year to explain the goals of the venture to its members.

The majority of the National PTA’s members are parents, though they also include teachers and students. The organization has affiliates in all 50 states. The Florida PTA has 345,000 members; Georgia, 310,000; North Carolina, 205,000; and New Jersey, 205,000.

The PTA campaign to promote common standards at the local level could prove successful—but the overall effort is misguided, argued Nel Noddings, a professor emerita of education at Stanford University who is critical of the multistate endeavor. She believes policymakers should focus on more-urgent needs, such as getting more students to complete high school and fixing struggling schools.

“We’re all for standards, but we have different ideas of what higher standards are,” Ms. Noddings said. Many of the current standards arguments amount to “propaganda,” she maintained, yet those arguments “may be enough to get people to go for it” at the state and local level.

The Gates Foundation based in Seattle, has poured billions of dollars into school improvement efforts across the K-12 spectrum. The foundation also provides funding to Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit corporation that publishes Education Week.

The foundation announced last year that it would refocus its high school grantmaking on promoting higher standards, among other areas. It has backed the common-core initiative, including providing financial support.

“Everyone knows the PTA at the local level, but not everyone knows its collective power” nationally, Vicki L. Phillips, the director of education for the foundation’s College Ready in the United States program, said in an interview. “For common standards to take hold, it will take local communities to get involved.”

A version of this article appeared in the December 09, 2009 edition of Education Week as PTA Launches Campaign Backing Common Standards


Student Well-Being Webinar After-School Learning Top Priority: Academics or Fun?
Join our expert panel to discuss how after-school programs and schools can work together to help students recover from pandemic-related learning loss.
Budget & Finance Webinar Leverage New Funding Sources with Data-Informed Practices
Address the whole child using data-informed practices, gain valuable insights, and learn strategies that can benefit your district.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
ChatGPT & Education: 8 Ways AI Improves Student Outcomes
Revolutionize student success! Don't miss our expert-led webinar demonstrating practical ways AI tools will elevate learning experiences.
Content provided by Inzata

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management This Principal Says It's Critical to Infuse Students' and Teachers' Days With Joy
Part of a school leader's role is to guard against outside distractions so teachers can focus on kids, says Salome Thomas-EL.
2 min read
051223 Lead Sym Caitlynn jb BS
Chris Ferenzi for Education Week
School & District Management Data Data: How Schools Respond to Student Hunger Over the Summer
The end of pandemic-era flexibility for schools and community organizations has translated into fewer students receiving free summer meals.
1 min read
Children enjoy lunches provided by the Brownsville Independent School District on June 8, 2016, at the Olivera Park gymnasium in Brownsville, Texas. The local school district provides free lunches to any child under 18 who needs a meal, regardless of their status as a student with the school district.
Children enjoy lunches provided by the Brownsville Independent School District on June 8, 2016, at the Olivera Park gymnasium in Brownsville, Texas. School districts and other organizations can sign up as summer meal sites to continue providing meals to students once school is out of session.
Jason Hoekema/The Brownsville Herald via AP
School & District Management Online Training Program to Boost Number of Principals of Color Expands
A New York City education college is the latest to join an online principal training program for educators of color and equity-minded leaders.
4 min read
Business like setting, with Black man on a laptop in a corporate conference room or office collaborating with a Black woman
School & District Management How Can You Tell What Students Need to Succeed at School? Ask Them
Some administrators let students drive purchasing decisions, shape dress code policies, and voice their concerns directly.
4 min read
051223 Lead Sym Mark L jb BS
Chris Ferenzi for Education Week