7 Tips for Effective PTA Social Media

Social media is one of the most powerful tools a PTA can use to spread its message, but only if it is used effectively. Creating an effective social media presence for your PTA can help you gain members, recruit volunteers, and promote your PTA to potential partners and sponsors. Here are 7 tips to help you get started.

  1. What are your goals? Figure out what your PTA wants to accomplish with social media, whether it is raising awareness, communicating with members of your school community, or getting attendance and volunteers for your events. Being mindful of the results you want will shape how you approach your PTA’s social media presence.
  2. Who is your audience? Your choice of social media and message can vary depending on who you are trying to reach. If you are only targeting your school community and looking to recruit members, share news of events, and have volunteers sign up to help, your free PTA MemberHub account can easily handle all of that and more in one phone app. If you’re looking to spread your message beyond your school walls, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube may be better. Keep in mind that having multiple social media outlets aimed at different audiences works well, but be sure to keep your messaging consistent across them all.
  3. Use the right tool for the right job. Facebook is probably the most common PTA social media choice, but don’t forget the others. Twitter works well for sharing things in real time, as does Instagram for events that have good visual appeal. YouTube and Facebook Live can provide your PTa a way to share PTA meetings, programs, and events with those who can’t attend in person.
  4. Track your success. Most social media platforms provide some tools for monitoring how your posts resonate with your audience. Keep track of followers and subscribers, likes and retweets, and other metrics. Pay attention to which posts generate the most engagement and which ones don’t.
  5. Don’t forget the hashtag. A good hashtag can help you track what others may be saying about your PTA as well. Some popular hashtags that see a lot of use for PTAs include #PTAProud, #DoGoodThings4Kids, #WhyPTA, #PTA4Kids, #PowerOfPTA, and #MembershipMatters. Create a hashtag that identifies your PTA and use it with your posts.
  6. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There are a lot of different social media platforms, and effectively using them takes time. Assess how much of your PTA resources, including volunteer time, to devote to social media.
  7. Be authentic. In all of your social media posts, be transparent and trustworthy. The news is full of stories of businesses and individuals who handled social media messages poorly or ineffectively, and the backlash can be extremely damaging. Being authentic helps your PTA build a connection with your audience and makes them more likely to trust your PTA, join, and volunteer. Set up procedures to have more than one set of eyes look over posts before they go live to catch typos, review content, and avoid accidentally offending anyone. Consider how someone could misuse or abuse your hashtag or message to convey the opposite of what you intended.

Graphic courtesy of Ibrahim.IDunder Creative Commons license.

Building Real Family Engagement with Your PTA Events

PTAs tend to do a lot of events. From carnivals and fun fairs to class parties to PTA programs like Reflections, PTAs know how to provide fun and engaging activities for families. And while this type of family engagement does a good job of getting families through the school doors, PTAs could do better at creating real family engagement that makes a big difference for children.

Research has shown that truly engaged families are critical to student success, providing the equivalent of an additional $1,000/student of spending. But to get that kind of result, families need to do more than just walk through the school doors and have a good time. They need to be engaged to support student learning outside the school walls.

Edutopia recently published an article on making the most of families’ time at school. While aimed at teachers and school administrators, the article provides some useful guidance for PTAs on creating events that build real family engagement. The family engagement that makes a difference is that which gets families in the classroom, participating in their child’s learning and activities that they do at school, and learning and understanding data about their child’s performance. Here are some key points from the article for PTAs:

  • Work with your school administration to create events that tie into current learning objectives. Improving student achievement won’t come from families taking pictures of kids in costumes at a Halloween parade or Thanksgiving performance. When these events get families in the school, take advantage of that to get them into the classroom as well by including math games around the theme of the event. Focus on those key ideas that your school is trying to get all children to master, like reading fluently on grade level and understanding basic math facts.
  • Make sure your events work with teachers’ schedules as well, especially if you are trying to include academic supports in your events with teachers’ help. Find out what other things are going on in teachers’ lives around the time you want to hold your event. Is it the same time that teachers are busy with end-of-semester assessments or preparing materials for parent-teacher conferences?
  • Time your events to work for all of those involved. School day events won’t work for working parents, and evening events are often hard for teachers to attend. Late afternoon or early evening events may work for both teachers staying after school and families getting off of work. Consider feeding everyone as part of your event.
  • Work with teachers to integrate an event’s theme into what the classes are doing. If you’re doing a circus themed event, having teachers integrate that theme into their lessons and showcasing that work during the event can build excitement among the children to get their families to come and see what they have been learning and doing.

With just a few tweaks and by working with your teachers and principal, PTAs can turn events into a fun time that supports families and student achievement, and that is how PTAs can create transformative family engagement.

Every Student Counts, Every Day Matters

Eighty percent of success is showing up. Nowhere is that more true than for our kids in school. Chronic absenteeism—missing at least 10% of the school days in a year for any reason, excused or unexcused—is a primary cause of low academic achievement and a powerful predictor of those students who may eventually drop out.

Missing 10% of school days seems like a lot, but in reality it is only missing two days each month. And it’s important to remember that even excused absences are included when measuring chronic absenteeism. An estimated 5 to 7.5 million students are chronically absent each year.

Chronic absenteeism is caused by many different issues—chronic health conditions, housing instability, involvement with the juvenile justice system, unsafe conditions in school, among many others. Students from low-income households, students of color, students with disabilities, students who move frequently, and juvenile justice involved youth are more likely to struggle with attendance problems, and these are most often the students who already face significant challenges in school. Research also indicates that chronic absenteeism can negatively affect the academic achievement of other students in the classroom, not just the absentee.

Chronic absenteeism is such a critical issue that Illinois created the Illinois Attendance Commission in 2015 to address the issue. Chronic absenteeism is also likely to be part of the Illinois Balanced Accountability Measure(IBAM) that will be used to assess schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It may also count as a double measure for those students in kindergarten through second grade.

There are several resources that PTAs can use to help educate and inform families on the importance of student attendance. The Illinois Attendance Commission has created a short video with long-time Chicago broadcaster Merri Dee.

 

The US Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Justice have collaborated to create a toolkit for communities to address chronic absenteeism. The toolkit, called Every Student, Every Day, offers information, suggested action steps, and lists of existing tools and resources to help organizations and individuals who touch every aspect of a student’s life to work together to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism.

The organization Attendance Works has additional data and resources on how your PTA and school can address chronic absenteeism. Among the items available are:

Talk with your school principal or district superintendent about what they are doing to address chronic absenteeism and what your PTA can do to help.

Supporting Your Teen at School

Your child spends almost one-third of their day at school, which makes it an important influence on their life. In the teen years, that influence likely grows as their friends opinions begin to play a more central role in their lives. One of the most powerful indicators of teenagers’ success in school is their connection to school—feeling like they belong at the school and are close to others there, including teachers. Attachment to school is associated with lower use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana, as well as lower rates of sexual activity, fewer thoughts about or attempts at suicide, and lower levels of violent behavior.

Research shows that even in the teen years, parents who are involved in their child’s education improve their academic success. Yet many parents become less involved as their child reaches middle and high school. While your child may be breaking away a bit more as they reach the teen years and look for more independence, there are still ways for you to be involved. The extension office at the University of Minnesota has some suggestions:

  • Expect success
  • Communicate with teachers
  • Support student activities
  • Volunteer in the school
  • Involve both parents
  • Encourage your teen to tutor or mentor others
  • Recognize your teen’s academic accomplishments
  • Create a positive home environment that encourages learning
  • Establish quiet time every night for studying, reading, or writing
  • Provide extra support to your teen during transitional times
  • Talk with your teen about their school classes and activities and monitor their attendance
  • Keep a calendar that lists school events, projects, and activities, as well as family events
  • Use screens wisely
  • Know how and where your kids spend free time, especially after school

For more information on these points, see the full article from Minnesota extension.