National PTA Back-to-School Kit Now Available

BTSK-2016-1It’s that time of year again! The 2016-2017 National PTA Official Back-To-School Kit launched on Monday, June 27. As always, it’s jam-packed with tools, resources and info—all specially designed to help you run your PTA. It’s a one-stop click for everything you need to know.

For the second year, the kit is completely digital and mobile-friendly. This means you can view the website from your phone, tablet, or other mobile devices. Having the Back-To-School Kit with you while you’re on the go is a big perk. We guarantee it will help you be more efficient and productive as a PTA leader.

Here are the top three things you need to know about this year’s kit:

  1. This Back-to-School Kit is a Member Benefit
    Only PTA members can register and access the 2016-2017 Back-to-School Kit. Keeping helpful resources at your fingertips is one of the many ways National PTA supports you, our hardworking and deserving members. You have an important job to do and we believe this kit gives you the tools you need to be a standout leader.
  1. PTA Members Need to Register to Access the Website
    Registration is a very simple process:
  • Go to org. President Laura Bay’s welcome video and the homepage are open to everyone.
  • Once you begin to use the site, you’ll be prompted to register. There is also a “REGISTRATION” tab on the top right corner of the homepage.
  • Fill out all of the required information.
  • Once you’ve completed your registration, you’ll receive an e-mail with a link. Click the link to set a username and password.
  • After your username and password are set, you can access all areas of the Back-to-School Kit.
  1. All State and Local Leaders that Register for the 2016-2017 National PTA Official Back-to-School Kit Will Receive a Special Recruitment Tool

    Our brand new Recruitment Tool is a physical packet of information that will help you describe PTA’s goals, structure, and message. More importantly, it’ll help you recruit new members. At this time, only state and local leaders (region, council, district and local unit presidents) will receive the special recruitment tool. However, it can and should be shared with unit members.

  • When registering for the Back-to-School Kit, state and local unit presidents should provide the mailing address for where they’d like to receive this Recruitment Tool.
  • Mailing for the recruitment tools will take place from July to September 2016.
  • No additional packets can be requested at this time. However, we anticipate that many PTAs will request additional packets, and we are currently working on a plan that will accommodate those needs in the future.


For a Back-to-School Kit FAQ, log onto or contact us at National PTA is also producing a how-to video that will walk members through the registration process.

How High-Poverty Schools Can Engage Families

SchoolOfExcellence_LogoAcademic achievement is often correlated with students’ socio-economic status—students from wealthier families tend to do better. But there is an increasing amount of research that shows that high-poverty schools can have students who achieve at the same level as their wealthier counterparts. The key is family engagement.

High-poverty schools have additional hurdles to overcome when engaging families. Many in poverty work several jobs, often with erratic hours. The household may have limited English language skills. Transportation for events during, after school, or in the evening may be an issue. The adults in the family may not have had a positive school experience when they were growing up and are therefore reluctant to engage with the school now.

A recent article at Edutopia, based on the book Turning High-Poverty Schools into High-Performing Schools by William H. Parrett and Kathleen M. Budge, illustrates how schools that actively engage families can improve student performance. The article highlights seven key strategies and practices for schools:

  1. Create Full-Service Schools and Safety Nets
  2. Create Links Between School and Home
  3. Offer Mentoring to Students
  4. Provide Opportunity for Community-Based and Service Learning
  5. Conduct Home Visits
  6. Ensure Effective Two-Way Communication
  7. Use the School as a Community Center

Some of these key strategies might sound familiar to PTA members. They parallel PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. A great way for any school, high-poverty or not, to implement these standards is the National PTA School of Excellence Program. Enroll in the free program before October 1, 2016. Your PTA will receive an online survey to have your school community—families, administrators, and PTA leaders—to create a Family-School Partnership Scan. Submit the scan by November 1, 2016, and your PTA then receives a school-specific Roadmap to Excellence that contains customized recommendations that respond directly to your survey results. The Roadmap to Excellence provides the tools and resources your PTA will need to implement your action plan, telling you exactly what your PTA needs to do to become an National PTA School of Excellence. Implement your action plan, and then submit your completed application by June 1, 2017, then celebrate your success during the following back-to-school season! Sign up or read more today!

10 Great Ways to Get More PTA Volunteers

8975602227_090ce649a2_oPTA is the largest volunteer organization in the world focused on the welfare of children. From the person sitting at a registration table at open house on up to the National PTA president, almost all of the work done by PTA is done by volunteers. Here are XX ways your PTA can get more volunteers.

  1. Target new families to your school.
    New families want to know what is going on at school, so having your PTA reach out to those families can be an important first step towards getting them to volunteer. Consider creating a PTA Welcome Packet for new families.
  1. Toot your PTA’s horn.
    Families aren’t going to know what your PTA is doing if you are not showing them and telling them. Be sure to post invitations to upcoming events on your PTA’s website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, e-mail list, and in your newsletter. Follow up with pictures and thanks to your volunteers after the event through all of those media. Develop a communications plan for your PTA.
  1. Find the hidden talents in your school.
    The Cub Scout program is another volunteer-led organization that has used a Family Talent Survey to identify the interests and skills that families might be able to share as part of the program. Think about the skills, talents, and interests that parallel what your PTA does to create a family talent survey for your PTA. Use it to find the artist who might be interested in helping with your PTA Reflections program or the designer who might be willing to help create eye-catching flyers and posters.
  1. Ask for feedback after an event.
    Your PTA may have those involved in planning an event review how it went afterwards and consider how it might be improved. Don’t limit your feedback to just your organizers. Survey families at an event to find out what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they would change as well. Be sure to include “I would like to help plan this event next year” and “I would like to volunteer at this event next year” options along with contact information at the bottom.
  1. Keep volunteer shifts short.
    Everybody at a PTA event wants to spend time enjoying it with their family. By keeping your volunteer shifts short, more people are likely to volunteer because they know they won’t be missing much time with their family. Take advantage of the Illinois PTA member benefit that provides your PTA with a free premium upgrade with Volunteer Spot.
  1. Use a procedure book to make volunteering less intimidating.
    A procedure book preserves your PTA’s knowledge about how to run an event or fulfill the duties of a board or officer position. It is also a great volunteer recruiting tool. A well-designed procedure book that includes detailed information on what has been done to plan an event in the past is like a guidebook to a foreign land, providing information on things you shouldn’t miss and potential stumbling blocks.
  1. Be sure to support your volunteers.
    Don’t just hand a volunteer a job description or a procedure book and send them on their way. Be sure to check in to see if they have any questions or issues. Show them that you value the time they are giving the PTA by giving them some of your time and attention.
  1. Talk to those that aren’t volunteering.
    There are many reasons why someone may not be volunteering for your PTA. Many of those reasons may be based on myths about volunteering for your PTA. By talking with those who aren’t volunteering, you can dispel some of those myths and get new volunteers.
  1. Add diversity to your PTA.
    Look at who your PTA leaders and members are. Do they represent the diversity of your school, not just by race, but also by age, gender, language, socioeconomic status, or other measures? If not, you have a pool of potential PTA members and volunteers that you are currently not reaching. Use National PTA’s Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit to reach out to those communities and broaden your PTA.
  1. Thank your volunteers often and publicly.
    Most people aren’t volunteering with the PTA just for personal recognition, but publicly thanking and recognizing your volunteers makes them feel valued and more likely to volunteer again.


Graphic © 2013 by Pump Aid Pictures under Creative Commons license.

Recognize Your PTA Volunteers to Keep Them Coming Back

Thank-you-word-cloudOne of the most important ways a PTA can get the most from its volunteers is to acknowledge their efforts. Perhaps your school had a volunteer recognition event back in April during National Volunteer Week. As your PTA year wraps up, be sure to thank your volunteers both publicly and privately for their work, and don’t forget to share with your administration what all those volunteer hours mean for your school. Independent Sector, a leadership network for nonprofits, estimates that the value of volunteer time for 2015 is $23.56/hour.

When recognizing volunteers, you can always go with the nice suitable-for-framing certificate, a small gift card, or a donation to the Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund. Instead of the $10 gift card or simple certificate, consider making simple volunteer recognition awards that acknowledge the hard work and importance of your volunteers in a fun way. Remember, with these sorts of awards, the presentation is as important as the award itself, so ham it up!

Awards can be easily made with simple hobby or hardware store items—a small painted plaque, a decorative item, and a little bit of hot glue are all you need. Here are some award suggestions:

  • Our Eyes Are On You: For the leader who sets the example (button eyes on a large felt U)
  • Order of the Spare Marble: For the person who’s lost them (a marble glued to a small piece of wood or to a string )
  • Spark Plug Award: For the person who is the spark of a project (a spark plug)
  • Berry Good Job: For the person who did a “Berry Good Job” (a wax or plastic berry (any kind))
  • Measure Up Award: For the person who’s performance sets the standard (a ruler)
  • Nuts About the Job Award: For the person who had to be nuts to take on the job (2 or 3 peanuts glued to a piece of wood)
  • Order of the Bear: For those that bear up under pressure (a plastic bear with a tire gauge)
  • Life Saver Award: For that person who saved you (a Lifesaver on a string)
  • Banana Award: For the person with great appeal (a wax or plastic banana)
  • Bright Idea Award: For those who had a bright idea (a light bulb)
  • Helping Hand Award: For those who was willing to help (trace a hand on construction paper mounted to a piece of cardboard)
  • Hat’s Off Award: For someone we take our hats off to (an old hat mounted on a piece of wood)
  • Right Foot Award: For those who got us off on the right foot (Trace a RIGHT foot –use caution some may not know left from right)
  • Big Heart Award: For those who always seem to have one (heart shaped craft material of any kind, then decorated)
  • “Egg”cellent job/idea /etc. Award: For those who did an excellent job (fake egg)
  • Heartfelt Thanks Award: Self-explanatory (large heart cut from felt with “Thanks” on it)
  • Thanks a Million Award: For the person you’d pay a million dollars for to have them volunteering in your PTA (a million dollars in play money or a million-dollar bill)
  • “Shell” of a Job Award: For the person who did a great job (seashell)
  • Hung in There Award: For the person who stuck through a tough job (anything hanging from something (try to get a picture of the person))
  • Worked Like a Dog Award: For the person who did just that (dog biscuit or bone)
  • Tee-rific Award: For the person who did a terrific job (a golf tee or tea bag)
  • The Coveted Dime-and-Pin Award: For those you would give a diamond pin to if the PTA budget could afford it (glue a pin to a dime)
  • Rose to the Occasion Award: For the person who really stepped up (an artificial or ribbon rose)
  • It’s “Bean” Wonderful Award: For the person leaving your PTA (a lima or other large bean)
  • Knocked Yourself Out Award: For the person who gave their all (a small hammer, mini baseball bat, or mini boxing glove)
  • Shining Example Award: For those who best exemplify your PTA (a small flashlight)
  • Hornblower Award: For those who never blow their own horn (a plastic bicycle horn or party horn)
  • Megaphone Award: For those who are soft spoken but get the job done or who never shout
  • The Band-Aid Award: For those who can fix anything
  • The Rock Award: For those who are the rock of the group
  • The Rope Award: For those who always tie up the loose ends (a piece of manila/sisal/hemp rope with the ends whipped)
  • The Crutch Award: For those you can lean on
  • Key to Success Award: For those who were key to making it happen
  • Whale Award: For those who did a whale of job
  • Football Award: For the person who always is willing to tackle a job (a small football or football player)
  • Cone Award: For the person who can lick any job (an ice cream cone)

Graphic ©2015 by Ashashyou under Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons.