Report on PAA conference


Summary report – PAA Leadership Conference 2016

Parents Across America held our fourth annual leadership conference in Philadelphia PA from July 18-20, with twenty great leaders from twelve states. Most were in the room and some joined us online. We had an excellent mix of new and returning leaders and of geography, cultural background, age, and gender (three men!!!).

What we discussed, experienced, and learned

We had a rich program of discussion, sharing, learning and planning over one full and two half days. The details of each session are below, along with links to the recording and slide show for most sessions.

But first, here are some key “take-aways” from our time together:

BenitaThe value of the PAA annual meeting: We all agreed that it is very important and meaningful to get together at least once a year. We all bring to the table an intense passion for public education and for children which we clearly recognize in each other. This helps us trust each other enough to share the honest, deep and often painful emotions that go along with our work. It is also a good way of bringing together people from diverse backgrounds in a group that’s small enough for us to really listen to each other and feel comfortable sharing our thoughts and ideas.

ESSA changes: We had a good discussion about ESSA including reviewing the comments Julie had prepared for submission to the Department of Education on its proposed regulations for implementing the new ESSA. The proposed comments were agreed to with the addition of a statement encouraging a school curriculum that is culturally relevant to diverse communities and programs which are responsive to the real life conditions of students and their families. The group would also like to require much stronger, more inclusive steps before any school is closed, and requested that our policy paper, “What is a Quality Education,” be attached. This will be done in time for the August 1 deadline.

Ed Tech and real personalized learning: We started out this session by asking people what they think of when they hear “personalized learning.” Here’s some of what people said:

  • “It’s personal to your child.”
  • “It is tailored to your child’s needs and interests, like you tailor a garment.”
  • “It involves one-on-one work with a teacher.”
  • “IEPs – an individualized learning program required under special education laws to be written and followed for every child identified as having special needs.”
  • “Relates to every child’s needs and strengths.”
  • “For the teacher, what does he or she know about the child that can help in teaching that child?”
  • Julie shared an article she had read recently about a program from the 1970’s where teachers figured out how to find time to meet with each parent at the beginning of the school year to learn about each child’s strengths, interests, and needs. Then they worked to design lessons that addressed these things. The program was a huge success. Read more about it here.

Of course, that is not what the EdTech industry means when THEY talk about personalized learning…

The sessions: Recordings and slide shows

We recorded several of the Monday sessions with varying degrees of success, so we will only share here the two successful recordings (and even then, please be tolerant…) and links to the slide shows for the others.

Slide show for the introduction session: PAA 101.

Slide show for the session ESSA – What’s New?

We talked about the changes in ESSA and reviewed the draft of comments we were planning to submit to the Dept of Education. Here is what we ended up submitting.

Next Steps in our Race, Poverty and Education project

This session was very intense. Even though we have gone over this basic information many times, it is still disturbing and infuriating to see the data about the inequities in education, employment, and overall life opportunity between white students and students of color. Much of our discussion on this topic carried over to the following day’s internal strategy session.

The discussion recording is here:

The slide show is here:

EdTech and Data Privacy

This was a pretty long session with a lot of random chit chat at the beginning, but there is a lot of valuable information in the recording, thanks to good input from Laura, Heather and Leonie. The session recording is here:

If you just want to review the powerpoint, you can go here:

SharonKilling Ed” with Sharon Higgins: “Ripped from the headlines”

We shared pizza Tuesday evening with PAA founding member Sharon Higgins, who gave us some background on the new documentary, “Killing Ed,” which features her years of intense research and reporting on the secretive Gulen chain of charter schools and their connection to an exiled Turkish Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The timing could not have been better, given the breaking news of an attempted coup in Turkey, and accusations by the Turkish president that Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania not far from where we held our conference, was behind the effort.

Most attendees had not seen this powerful film, and we gave out 10 dvd copies so that they can share it at home and in their schools and communities. Everyone agreed that every parent needs to know what’s in this important film.

Wednesday morning

During the rest of our time together, we shared our feedback on the earlier sessions, discussed PAA’s proposed action plans, and offered additional ideas for strategies for this year or the future.

It was a great few days and we can’t wait for next year!

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Misc

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