The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) released a report detailing the results of conversations with low-income African-American students from across the country about their perceptions of their schools. That report, A Seat at the Table: African American Youth’s Perceptions of K-12 Education, presents compelling information on how PTAs can help support student success not just for African-American students, but for all students.

Key Findings

The UNCF report is the third in a series, following reports on the perceptions of African-American leaders and parents on K-12 education. Among the key findings of the report are:

  • 89% of students believe it is important to continue their education beyond high school.
  • 66% of students said doing well in school was their top priority.
  • Students’ top priorities for improving their school were more engaging teachers (35%), one-on-one attention/smaller classes (24%), and better technology/computers (22%).
  • Students’ concerns regarding their commute to school included trash or litter (40%), speeding cars/bad drivers (37%), gang intimidation (29%), unsafe public transportation (27%), and people harassing me (20%).

The Challenge to PTAs

When it came to the obstacles for getting into or finishing college, students reported several things that PTAs could help schools address. Those obstacles included:

  • Financial: High cost of college (57%); Don’t know how to pay for it (21%), Need to work full-time to support self (19%)
  • Academic: Scoring well on standardized testing (22%), Not good at math (20%)
  • Support: Lack of support services in school (11%), Don’t understand the FAFSA process (10%), Don’t understand the admissions process (7%)


PTAs have an opportunity to work with school guidance counselors, teachers, and administrators to help all students overcome these barriers. Ways that PTAs could help include:

  • Hosting family information nights on how the college admissions process works or what classes students should take in middle and high school to be prepared to go to college.
  • Hosting FAFSA completion nights where families are walked through the financial aid process online and have completed the FAFSA form by the end of the event.
  • Sharing scholarship information with families.
  • Working with teachers to provide information to families on how to support their students in classes they may be struggling with.

While the UNCF report is focused on African-American students, PTAs can use the results to implement programs and events that will support the success of all students.