Secretary Duncan To Be Guest On Next #PTchat

As I’ve previously posted, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be participating in April 8th’s #PTchat on Twitter.

Here’s the announcement on the DOE’s blog:

On April 8, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will be taking to Twitter to gain additional feedback from parents and educators on community and parent engagement best practices during the weekly #PTchat. The chat will coincide with the National Family Engagement Conference in Cincinnati, which aims to bring together educators and community activists to raise awareness of community involvement in schools.

Duncan will moderate the Twitter chat and share information about recently released family and community engagement resources from the Department of Education.

  • What: #PTchat with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
  • When: 9pm EDT, Tuesday, April 8.

I’m Interviewed In Podcast “Parent Involvement Versus Parent Engagement: Is There Really a Difference?”

I was a guest during #PTchat on Twitter last week discussing the difference between parent engagement and parent involvement (you can see the tweets here).

As a follow-up to that conversation, I was a guest on PTchat Radio, and you can listen to it here.

I’m adding it to My Best Posts, Articles & Interviews On Parent Engagement.

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter


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By Dana Sirotiak

As in the words of Alice Cooper “Schools Out for Summer”! Well, at least it is very close.  As another school year comes to an end, families contemplate what to do with their children over the summer break.  If parents are contemplating keeping their children home for the summer, regression becomes a concern.  Regression is the loss of learned skills; usually after breaks in instruction once school is let out for summer vacation.  Some regression is normal in all children, but in some instances,  students are profoundly affected by lapses in instruction. These students may be unable to store concepts in their long-term memory in a way that can be easily recalled. The amount of instruction they need to recover or “recoup” their abilities may be longer than other students need, and they may need additional instruction to catch up.  This week’s PTchat is to discuss techniques, strategies, and activities to prevent regression from happening.  Some suggestions are reading activities, calculating grocery bills, planning/budgeting the family’s summer vacation, journal keeping, scrapbooking, and more.  

Please join us at 9PM EDT on Wednesday, 6/12 as we discuss Summer Skills to Prevent Regression.  

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

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Last year the @NYTimesLearning blog held a conversation on summer reading, sharing many resources which added to the 2012 #PTchat discussion on summer reading. This week we’ve got a variety of amazing connected educators and parents ready to share out during the annual #PTchat on summer reading. 

We’ve invited teachers, librarians, parents and all around good people like @joycevalenza @SOMSlibrary @cybraryman1 @ontheshelf4kids @shannonmmiller @johnfritzky and others to pace our conversation. Below are some of the questions we’ll be posing during the one-hour chat.

  • What K-12 expectations should we have for students to read over the summer? Why?
  • What are the ways classroom teachers can encourage summer reading?
  • If parents are encouraging summer reading, what kinds of things are they most likely doing?
  • How can keep school libraries stay virtually open when so many are closed from June-September?
  • What tech tools can be used to encourage summer reading, keep logs or share literary experiences?
  • How can the whole family encourage summer reading? What practices would you recommend?
  • How can we make these summer habits the norm in students’ homes?

Please join us Wednesday, 5/29 at 9PM EDT for a one hour conversation on how parents and teachers can make the most of summer reading opportunities for kids. Use #PTchat and #summerreading in your tweets. 

This Week’s #PTchat: Parents and Educators Teaming Up to Cultivate Soft Skills in Children

By Dana Sirotiak

If you looked into today’s classroom, what skills would you see being taught through the doors of a Kindergarten class? 4thgrade class? AP Science class?  When preparing students to be college and career ready, schools normally focus on the skills students will be in order to be successful in a competitive 21st Century world.  “Schools do a good job of teaching reading, writing, science, math and other “hard” skills that are both essential and valuable to performing well on the job” (Aricia E. LaFrance,Parenting and Career Coach).  In order to prepare students both at home and at school, soft skills are also important traits to be included in daily interactions.  La France (2013) defines “soft skills” as a complex system of traits and habits including: confidence, flexibility, honestly, integrity, the ability to see things from different perspectives, optimism, and common sense.  These soft skills are habits that have been cultivated over time; starting in the home, then developed throughout time in school.

This week’s #PTchat will focus on how parents and educators can join together to help students cultivate soft skills both at home and in school.  Join us this Wednesday, May 15th at 9pm EDT/6pm PDT, to discuss specific strategies families and educators can use to help students develop soft skills.

This Week’s LIVE gHangout #PTchat

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

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This week on #PTchat brings something new – a conversation that is both on Twitter and visually hosted on Youtube via Google Hangout. Join us as we facilitate a conversation on how we can appreciate and recognize today’s teachers on a daily basis, as well as share some recent findings from Finland.


Hangout guests will include the #PennFinn13 group who just got back from a inquiry-driven trip to Finland. They will share reflections on how we might learn from how Finland recognizes teachers with trust, respect, and autonomy.

How we can bring teacher appreciation into the heart of our schools and programs?

RSVP here to be a part of this Wednesday night’s LIVE event.  Of course, we’ll also use our weekly hashtag #PTchat during the conversation, so follow along the conversations backchannel on Twitter for more ideas and resources, as well as the opportunity to ask questions to LIVE educators on the line.


Join us this Wednesday night at 9PM EDT / 6PM EDT for #PTchat – LIVE via gHangout and on Twitter. 

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter


By Zak Malamed   

The Student Voice movement is gaining traction. On April 13th, approximately 200 students and their influential supporters gathered in New York to bring what was once a virtual movement, face to face. (See videos from Student Voice LIVE embedded in this post)


With people attending from across the world and taking part from satellite events in six continents and across the United States, the interest and energy is certainly global. 

On this #PTchat, we will discuss the important role that adult stakeholders played at the event and ways that they can advance and are already advancing the movement. Join the conversation on Wednesday, April 24th at 9pm EST/6PM PST, using the #PTchat hashtag.

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

By Joe Mazza

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This Wednesday night, 4/17/13 on #PTchat (9PM EDT / 6PM PST) we’re discussing how schools can better engage families of students with special needs with Dr. Scott Roth.

Dr. Roth (@TheHelpTheyNeed) is licensed psychologist and New Jersey certified school psychologist providing psychological and psycho-educational assessment, treatment, and consultation to children, adolescents, and families.  He has spent a decade in the public schools working within the special education system while collaborating with parents and supporting students.  He is currently the Supervising Clinical Psychologist at a school-based mental health program and maintains a private practice where he evaluates and treats children, adolescents, and families.  Dr. Roth has been an expert witness before the Administrative Law Judge of in the state of New Jersey and a court-appointed expert for the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Family Part.


We’re looking forward to a great conversation on how regular ed and special ed teachers, school and parent leaders can engage deeper, families of students with special needs. Please join us Wednesday night for #PTchat. 


*New to Twitter chats? Here’s a printable resource from Edutopia for parents and teachers on how to engage in the wealth of free global and transparent conversations happening at any given time. 



This Week’s #PTchat on Twitter

By Joe Mazza

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You may have heard about Kathy Newmann, a parent who is opting her nine-year old 3rd grader Jacob out of this year’s PSSA testing. Kathy is also an English professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the latest to join other parents around the country who are finally saying NO to the annual spring state testing period. 

In Illinois it’s called the ISAT. In New York they are now called ELAs. Every state’s students, teachers, administrators and parents are well aware of what teaching and learning look like before, during and after these tests. The scores will then be posted in the newspaper to compare school to school, district to district and state to state rather than supporting student learning, growth and development. Schools have other formative and summative assessments which serve that purpose. Many consider these state tests to be a multi-billion dollar anxiety-filled, add-on the Department of Education hangs their hat on each year without any research that tells us it benefits educational reform.  Montgomery County (MD) Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr is teh latest leader to call for a test sabbatical (detailed below).

For some kids the annual test-fest is an opportunity to feel a sense of confidence in their academic skills. For others including me when I was a kid, these weeks of testing are filled with anxiety and a sense of defeat. Hearing my teachers tell me they can’t help me or explain to me what I am to do to solve a problem is something I can still remember as an adult. 

This week on #ptchat, we’ll discuss standardized tests, and why an increasing number of parents are choosing to opt their children out of these assessments (See United Opt Out National). We’ve invited parents who are actively opting their children out of these tests to join our conversation. Join us on Wednesday, April 10th at 9PM EDT / 6PM PST. 

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

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By Dana Sirotiak

As a teacher, my purpose in selecting this topic is in hopes of changing the behavior of a very small group of educators who are labeled difficult to deal with.  It is in my opinion, and I believe many in education would agree, that there are more wonderful, caring, approachable teachers than there are not.  This week’s chat is not to target difficult teachers, but to provide approaches we might use to lessen the tension between a parent and their child’s teacher.  All companies in a situation like this can grow from experience; parents can learn how to respectfully approach a teacher and still discuss their concerns and teachers can learn how to reflect when situations like this arise.  

It is my goal that at the conclusion of this week’s #PTchat, participants leave with a few strategies if ever faced in a situation as this.  Join us this Wednesday, 4/3/13 at 9pm EDT / 6pm PST on #PTchat as we discuss “How to Deal with a Difficult Teacher as a Parent.”

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

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#PTchat hosted by Dana Sirotiak

When you picture a positive learning environment, what comes to mind?  

“A positive learning environment is one in which school staff, students, and parents build safe and peaceful environments where people are accepted and respected and where learning is the main focus” (Schauffele, 2007).  Research has shown that a positive learning environments maximizes the learning of every student, help children become full participating citizens of society, and help build a sense of community.  It is important that this vision is shared  among all stakeholders: families, staff, and students.  “Schools acting in partnership with their communities, can create and maintain these type of environments” (Safe and Healthy Schools, 2000).  

This week’s #PTchat is focused on Creating a Positive Learning Environment in school and at home. Join us this Wednesday at 9pm EDT/6pm PST. The chat will focus on how all stakeholders in education can build upon shared principles in creating a positive learning environment.

This Week’s #PTchat On Twitter

Guest Post by Joe Mazza

Knapp Main Office Tiki Bar – Image credit: @gpescatore25

The following excerpt is from The Community of School (2001) published by the Academic Development Institute. 


Another area in which the school could be different, according to some parents, was to be more welcoming and more “family friendly.” Parents, too, wanted to be respected and treated as a valued person when they made contact with the school. They did not want to feel as if they were a nuisance and a bother but rather as someone who had something important to say. One parent told of a school secretary who became blatantly annoyed at her when she called to let them know that her daughter would be absent from school. Parents wanted to be able to come to the school any time, not just open house and parent-teacher conferences, they wanted to feel welcomed in the building. “As parents we need to be able to just walk in, you know and a teacher cannot tell us you can’t come. You know it’s an open thing. It’s up to you as a parent.” Another parent in the same group followed up by saying, “I want to be able to come in, not interrupt the class but you know to make sure that he’s doing ok, everything’s ok and I can really see how he’s doing. For him I just want the doors to still be open, you know, no matter what grade he’s in.” 

Oftentimes, a family’s first impression of the school is the school secretary. The smile, greeting, resourcefulness, eye contact, tone, respect and focus on meeting the needs of the family member is immediately evident to most. During this week’s Parent-Teacher Chat, we’ll discuss the school secretary position, and share ideas on how to insure every first impression is a positive and lasting one in our schools. 


The idea for this chat topic came from my own secretary at Knapp Elementary, Mrs. Maria Shaw. Since reading Beyond the Bakesale during a recent parent-teacher book chat, she’s been invested in doing everything she can engage families from her lens. She’s always gone the extra mile for all of us at Knapp, but now she has the research and practical examples on how to take our school office family engagement “game” to the next level. 


Join us this Wednesday, March 13th at 9PM EDT / 6PM PST. New Twitterer Mrs. Shaw will be on the chat as @mnmshaw, but if you have a non-tweeting secretary, please direct he/she to #PTchat’s Tweetchat link at at the time of the chat to follow along. Of course, all archives of these chats can be found here