PTA Membership Tips for November

Several months into the school year, your PTA is probably not attracting as many new members as it was during the start of the school year. Now is a great time to assess how your membership recruitment has gone so far and plan to build your PTA membership. Here are some tips to help.

  • You know who your PTA members are so far. Look at your membership and note who in your school community isn’t a PTA member? Is it teachers or staff? Are there any characteristics that the families not joining your PTA share? If so, what can you do to reach out to those families and make them feel welcome? What barriers might your PTA be putting up that discourages them from joining? Use PTA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkit to reach out to those families.
  • Use an Illinois PTA ready-to-use membership program to get more people interested in joining your PTA. Build a Super Fan campaign around upcoming sports seasons or a Give the Gift of Membership campaign for the holiday season.
  • Sign up for National PTA’s Local Leader Kit so you can receive the DIY Kit for Membership Growth for free. The DIY kit will walk you through how to target potential PTA members and build a membership pitch to share the value of PTA with them.
  • Take advantage of the power of MemberHub. PTA members aren’t the only people who you can sign up on MemberHub. If you have non-members joining MemberHub and using it as a communication tool with everyone, those non-members will see more of all the great things your PTA is doing. And if you are offering PTA memberships through MemberHub, you have an easy way to get them to join.

Photo courtesy Nick Youngson and Alpha Stock Imagesunder 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.

5 Tips to Boost Your PTA Membership

Membership is critical to your PTA’s success. Members become your PTA’s volunteers and leaders, but most importantly members, even those who never volunteer, are sending the message that what your PTA is doing is important for their child, for their family, and for their school. Here are five tips to help your PTA engage with families and boost your membership.

  1. Build Your Brand:If people don’t know that your PTA exists or what your PTA does, they certainly won’t join. Make sure that your PTA is visible at school events, communicates regularly with all families in a variety of ways, and shares the good things your PTA does for their child. Be consistent with identifying PTA events and communications.
  2. Target Your Recruitment:Not every member of your school community will join PTA for the same reason. The days when everyone would join the PTA simply because it was what you did are long gone. The message to recruit teachers will be different than the one to recruit families, and both will be different than the message to recruit community members or businesses. Use PTA’s customizable 10 ReasonsPDF flyersto reach out to each community.
  3. Reach Out to Underrepresented Groups:PTA’s mission is to make every child’s potential a reality, and that mission is more easily served when everyone is at the table sharing ideas. But making the connection with some families in your school can be difficult if your PTA hasn’t been building those relationships already. Use PTA’s Diversity & Inclusion Toolkitand tips on how to engage with underrepresented groupsto help you start building those relationships now.
  4. Use All Your Tools:Having the right tool for a job can make it go a lot easier, but if you never take that tool out of your toolbox, it might as well be a rock. PTA provides you with a wealth of resources to help you with membership, including National PTA’s Local Leader Kit(register here), Illinois PTA’s Leadership Resources(formerly the Local Unit Packet, register your officers through MemberHub to get access), and membership articles here at One Voice Illinois.
  5. Have a Plan:When you register for National PTA’s Local Leader Kit, you’ll be sent a DIY Kit for Membership Growththat will walk you through the process of creating a membership plan specific to your PTA. You can also use Illinois PTA’s membership campaignsthroughout the year to recruit members.