How PTAs Can Prioritize Student Safety and Privacy Online

Happy female teacher assisting school kids during an e-learning class at elementary school.

[Content warning: This article contains discussion of self-harm and suicide.]

Across the country, young people are experiencing a concerning increase in mental health challenges—so much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. But in Neosho County, Mo., the number of students requiring hospitalization for mental health crises has dropped significantly and no student has died by suicide in three years.

Neosho County students face the same set of stressors as their peers. One key difference is that the district has invested in a robust suicide prevention plan—and it’s making a big impact. A core component of Neosho’s student support plan is GoGuardian Beacon, which helps schools identify online activity on school-managed devices and accounts that indicates a risk of suicide, self-harm or possible harm to others. Beacon notifies designated responders to quickly activate a school’s response plan and get students help.

“I find the Beacon alerts incredibly helpful, not only for active-planning situations, but also for the kids who are just reaching out and need a little bit of help,” says Neosho Director of School Counseling Tracy Clements. “It has saved the lives of so many kids and improved the quality of life for countless others.”

Student Safety vs Privacy: Can We Have Both?

While Clements, like many other educators, views online safety tools as an important component of their suicide prevention program, these technologies aren’t without controversy. Parents and educators want to protect young people from self-harm and other threats, but they also worry about student privacy—not wanting sensitive information about their children to land in the wrong hands or be used inappropriately.

Micki Young, a parent and PTA volunteer in Grove City, Ohio, wants strong security set up on her children’s computers. “Especially with the rise in depression and suicides, if my kids were to type in something that was potentially triggering, I would expect them to be approached in a way that was appropriate for the situation,” she says. “I have no concerns with it being monitored. It’s your school computer.”

Nicole Perretta, a PTA leader in New York and mother of four, describes herself as a fan of online monitoring and, in particular, is concerned by the real-life impacts of online bullying. “We do a lot of talking about how to be accepting, but that barrier of a screen really does empower some people to say the nastiest things,” she says. “I think that if we could just pay attention to our kids’ mental health as it relates to what they’re doing online, we would be in a better position to head off some of that negativity that follows them throughout the day.”

That said, Perretta is generally cautious about sharing personal data online and wants her children’s school to involve parents in deciding what information is shared beyond school walls. “The school respects FERPA, but sometimes I’m like, I really would have preferred you have asked my permission to share that. I would just like to be able to police what goes out.”

Mary Sotomayor, another New York State PTA leader and mom of two, believes districts have a responsibility to monitor activity on school-issued devices. “If it’s a school-given laptop or computer, there should be no privacy,” she says, but as far as who sees the data, she says, “This should be a conversation between the guidance counselor and the parent. And it should end there.” She doesn’t think that schools or vendors should hold onto records. “All kids make mistakes. They’re children, they’re learning. If you’re going to hold something against me that the school found out about because of my computer when I was 12? Mmmm. That’s kind of scary.”

“There’s going to be some contention around this type of issue,” says Tennessee PTA President Dwight Hunter, “And there should be.” Tennessee PTA successfully advocated for a resolution on data privacy several years ago based on parental concerns about the data privacy policies of outside vendors. They are also supporting and encouraging families to communicate more with their children about online safety and mental health. “Having an open conversation is so key,” says Hunter.

Our Belief: It’s Not an Either/Or

National PTA believes that student safety and privacy don’t have to be in opposition. We support clear privacy and security policies that maintain the confidentiality of sensitive data that students and families share with schools and via online services. At the same time, we believe that technology can be a powerful tool in keeping students safe. The question we think every community should be asking is, “How can families and schools partner to ensure student safety and privacy at the same time?”

Parents can play a role in supporting online safety and privacy practices by speaking up about where school or community communication is lacking on these issues and by advocating for policies that protect both their children’s health and their data.

Does Your School Practice T.A.C.T.?

Teddy Hartman, Head of Privacy at GoGuardian, suggests we think about online safety the same way we think about safety at school. Parents can and should expect schools to keep children safe while in a classroom or on a field trip—that they will be in the company of vetted adults, aboard school buses that have passed inspection, etc. Hartman asks, “If we extend that thinking to the digital learning environment, what sort of expectations do parents have for the school?”

Hartman, a parent and a former educator himself, suggests that parents and PTA leaders start by focusing on four elements collectively known as T.A.C.T.

  • Transparency
    Make sure your school system publicly shares a list of all technology vendors, the data privacy protections each vendor (and the school) has in place, the specifics of when and on which devices the technology will be active, and how these technologies are being used to support student safety. (With GoGuardian Beacon, schools can activate the School Session Indicator, an additional layer of transparency that displays on any device being monitored.)
  • Access
    Schools must be careful in deciding who has access to sensitive student data, and parents have a right to ask who has authorization to view their child’s information at the school and through the vendor. One way to check on a vendor’s data practices is to see whether the vendor has signed into the Student Privacy Pledge or has been certified by a third-party like iKeepSafe.
  • Communication
    Schools should provide information on what parents can expect if their child’s online activity generates an alert. Schools and parents can also help one another by holding community dialogues about suicide and self-harm prevention and by sharing tools to support better mental health. The National PTA Healthy Minds program has resources and guidance for both families and PTA leaders.
  • Teamwork
    Technology is only one piece of student support. Schools should have clearly articulated protocols for how to handle a self-harm notification and a team of mental health professionals trained both on the software and how to respond to alerts.

Protecting students online doesn’t need to be a polarizing issue. Start a conversation with your principal about how your school is putting student safety and privacy into practice. We owe it to our children to take a thoughtful, nuanced approach to their privacy and safety—together.

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GoGuardian is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement is implied.

How to Make a Mid-Year Ask to Join PTA—While Communicating PTA Value

By Linda Johnson & Ivelisse Castro

Happy Take Your Family to School Week, PTA/PTSA family and friends!

We are now about halfway through the 2021-2022 school year, which means that now is also a great time to share your PTA/PTSA’s successes and progress with your members and your community. This is no time to hide your light under a basket! Share how your PTA/PTSA has implemented our association’s mission (to make every child’s potential a reality!) with their support.

Increasing membership is vital for our PTA voice to be stronger and more influential. And we can all agree that our children need a powerful voice to speak up for them, especially as our communities navigate this ongoing pandemic. So, let’s use this mid-school year milestone as an opportunity to ask those who have not yet joined your PTA/PTSA—but have enjoyed your PTA/PTSA events or benefited from your resources—to join your PTA/PTSA now so that you can continue to provide critical resources and support to your community.

The research that National PTA conducted to develop our award-winning membership campaign shows that the number one reason people do not join PTA is that no one ever asked! That’s right—while we may believe that everyone in our community knows that they can and should join us, the data proves that people actually need an explicit, personal invitation to feel welcome.

So, there is no better time than the present! The easiest way to ask people to join your PTA/PTSA is to tie that invitation to a demonstration of the value you bring to your community. Make it a habit, now and throughout the remainder of the year. For example, whenever you host an event, ask attendees to join your PTA/PTSA at the end of the night; or, whenever you share photos on social media of resources your PTA/PTSA has collected for your school, include a link with instructions on how to join your efforts.

Another powerful way to do this is to create and share a (short!) report of how your PTA/PTSA has stepped up to care for your students, families and teachers this year—especially with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Not sure how to do this? National PTA is here to help!

We have created templates you can quickly and easily customize, including a Sample Mid-Year PTA/PTSA Letter/Email and a Sample Mid-Year PTA/PTSA Status Report. There is also an example, completed report for you to use as a reference.

The Sample Mid-Year PTA/PTSA Status template is a fill-in-the blank report to help you:

  • Share PTA accomplishments and contributions so far this year.
  • Thank your PTA members for joining, supporting or investing in the PTA mission.
  • Thank all the people who have volunteered their time and talents to support the work of PTA.
  • Share member benefits.

In addition to your members and families, be sure to send your Mid-Year Status Report to businesses and community members who have supported your PTA/PTSA so that they can see the impact of their support. If they haven’t joined yet, ask them to join your PTA/PTSA, too.

For more ideas to grow your membership, you can check out 125 Ways to Increase Membership and the 10 PTA Membership Myths & Truths.

We’d love to join you in celebrating your PTA/PTSA accomplishments. Please share your Mid-Year Status Reports by emailing them to Membership@PTA.org.

Have a successful second half of your PTA membership year!


Linda Johnson and Ivelisse Castro serve on the National PTA Membership & Field Service Team.

We Can Do This: Strategies to Address Vaccine Hesitancy through Local PTAs

Insights and Resources from our Recent Roundtable

National PTA’s urgent work to build vaccine confidence is well underway in 19 communities across the country. Recently we hosted a virtual roundtable to equip PTA leaders with accurate information and practical strategies to help address vaccine hesitancy and leverage every strategy to make schools safer for children and staff and maximize in-person learning. (Note: National PTA does not have a position on COVID vaccine mandates.)

Here, we share highlights from the conversation and resources local PTAs can put into practice right away.

Take Action to Keep Kids Safely in School: What Your PTA Can Do to Address Vaccine Hesitancy

Roundtable, February 2, 2022

  • Shaton Berry, Healthy Minds Ambassador, National PTA
  • Kate King, DNP, M.S., RN, LSN, President Elect, National Association of School Nurses
  • Laura Mitchell, Vice President of Advocacy, Montgomery County Council of PTAs, and Whole Child Fellow, National PTA
  • Michael Scott, CHES, Senior Program Manager, The Center for Black Health and Equity

  • Special Guest: Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, M.D., United States Surgeon General
  • Facilitator: Anna King, President, National PTA
  • Co-Facilitator: Nathan R. Monell, CAE, Executive Director, National PTA

Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy: The Surgeon General kicked off the conversation by thanking the PTA leaders who are already hard at work leading vaccine confidence campaigns in their communities. He noted the important role PTAs and community organizers can make in a moment like this, serving as a bridge to accurate and accessible information that is attuned to local concerns.

As a parent of young children himself, Dr. Murthy also expressed empathy toward any fully vaccinated parents and caregivers that may feel cautious about vaccinating their children, and acknowledged it is important that hesitant parents and caregivers be given the opportunity to express their concerns and be provided factual information. He observed that misinformation about vaccines circulating on social media platforms may have caused some parents and caregivers to become fearful. He noted that trusted messengers like local pediatricians, fellow parents, and other respected community members are likely the best positioned to help assuage such fears.

Kate King: School nurses are on the frontlines of the pandemic, but they can’t do this work alone. She urged collaboration among parent groups, school nurses, local boards of health and cultural organizations to help families overcome misinformation and make better-informed vaccine decisions. She urged parents and PTA leaders to speak with their own school nurse to access their recommended local resources. (If your school doesn’t have an assigned nurse, advocate for getting one!) Kate recommended several additional sources for reliable vaccination information:

Laura Mitchell: PTAs have a big role to play in helping our communities reach a safer post-pandemic stage. The key: Talk about vaccination everywhere! When families get comfortable asking questions from a trusted source, like their PTA, they are more likely to get vaccinated. Mitchell shared several successful conversation strategies from the Montgomery County Council PTA, who recently partnered with doctors to host “Vax Facts” webinars in multiple languages, teamed up with schools to get out the word about vaccine clinics, and regularly posts information in high-traffic locations, including grocery stores and their schools’ digital platforms.

Shaton Berry: When we help families make informed vaccine decisions, we’re supporting their health and mental health by reducing overall anxiety. Local PTA leaders don’t need to be health experts to navigate these conversations – they can tap into the National PTA family for ideas, tools and support. Shaton recommended three resources in particular:

Michael Scott: African-Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and this population is less likely to be vaccinated and more likely to experience severe illness or death due to the pandemic. It is important to acknowledge the historical events that have contributed to vaccine hesitancy among the Black community and other historically marginalized groups, and to recognize the racial inequity that persists today in our health care experiences. Scott highly recommends these two resources, developed by or in partnership with The Center for Black Health & Equity:

As we reflect on the learnings from this round table, National PTA wants to recognize and acknowledge that some PTAs may be having a hard time determining and navigating your role in increasing vaccine confidence within communities where this issue has become especially polarizing.

In communities with a lot of hesitancy, your PTA may want to start by facilitating a forum for people to express their concerns and hear from trusted local messengers (such as pediatricians, coaches, and clergy). Your PTA can choose a couple of fact-based COVID-19 resources to share with the families who participate in the forum.

Whereas in other communities where the issue is less around hesitancy and more around eliminating barriers to access. In that case, your PTA may want to help support a vaccine clinic – or host one! – and use the power of PTA to address issues like transportation, translation services, food, awareness and so forth.

We hope you’ll find these insights and specific resources helpful. Keep your eye out for more updates from National PTA in the weeks ahead as we continue building vaccine confidence together. Together, we can do this!

Help HP donate up to $3,000,000 this school year

With the HP Pays Your PTA online fundraiser, parents and students get easier access to printing and you can raise money for your PTA at the same time.  

PTA representatives can sign their schools up and then HP will give you a toolkit, including an email and flyer, so you can get the word out. Plus, you’ll receive a unique link that anyone in your school or community can use to enroll in Instant Ink. 

Anyone who signs up for HP Instant Ink using your unique link will automatically earn $10 for your school’s parent teacher organization. 

For more information on HP Pays Your PTA, please visit HP.com/PTA.  

We Can Do This

Building Vaccine Confidence by Engaging Parents

This January, National PTA launched an urgent grassroots effort to keep our children healthy and in school by building vaccine confidence in local communities. Funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the We Can Do This campaign is a nationwide effort to reach individuals and families facing barriers or hesitancy regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.

National PTA, whose 125-year history includes a long track record of public health advocacy and considerable grassroots organizing throughout the pandemic, is well positioned to help tackle this work. Nineteen state, regional and local PTAs have stepped up to lead information campaigns, community conversations, and vaccine clinics over a six-week period.

A Local Approach to a National Challenge

Reasons for vaccine hesitancy vary widely, and local PTA leaders understand the specific, often nuanced concerns in their communities. Each participating PTA is designing an outreach approach that makes sense locally. That could mean overcoming logistical barriers by hosting a pop-up clinic at a school or opening channels to accurate vaccine information from trusted sources that can be shared in the carpool lane, at sports team practices, at the community center or in houses of worship, or on Zoom.

In every case, the conversations are judgment-free: National PTA believes families have a right to ask questions and express their vaccine concerns without feeling shamed. However, we also believe that implementing layered prevention strategies is critical to protect students, teachers, staff and other members of their households, particularly those who are not fully vaccinated. And research supports that increasing vaccination rates lowers the spread of COVID, reduces serious illness, and shortens length of infection—making voluntary vaccination a key strategy for keeping schools open and maximizing critical in-person learning time for students. (Note: National PTA does not have a position on COVID vaccine mandates.)

In Norman, Okla., Adams Elementary PTA is planning a “community love”-themed pop-up vaccination clinic in mid-February. They’ve selected an accessible location (the high school parking lot) with drive-through and walk-up options and have partnered with local businesses—including a toy store and a bakery—to offer food and other kid-friendly incentives. Adams Elementary PTA made it a priority to bring in a partner that could increase comfort among the community’s Spanish speaking population; bilingual staff from a local pediatric practice will be on site to answer questions. The PTA is working closely with a large lab company that will handle all the clinical components (e.g., vaccine doses, nurses, etc.).

Around 600 “shots in arms” are expected to be delivered at this one pop-up clinic. Ultimately the goal is “keeping kids healthy and in school as many days as possible,” says Christel Wesley, Adams Elementary PTA President, “which means that our kids are getting food, growing academically, and their social and emotional needs are being met.”

The Serious Work PTAs Were Built to Do

The thoughtful, locally attuned organizing happening in Norman, Okla., is exactly why We Can Do This chose National PTA as a partner. “Our goal with the public education campaign is to reach as many people as possible with accurate, science-based information about COVID-19, especially vaccines and boosters. We want them to have the information they need to make decisions on how to protect themselves, their families, and their communities against the worst outcomes of COVID-19,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States. “By working with trusted community partners who serve a diverse range of community members, such as the PTA, we can meet people where they are and help ensure that people feel confident making informed decisions about their health.”

While most of this activity is being organized in (and for) individual local communities, National PTA recently hosted a virtual event with the US Surgeon General, community organizations, and fellow PTA leaders on February 2 to address common questions about the vaccine and to share specific actions that PTAs everywhere can take to increase vaccine confidence in their communities.

This is challenging, fast-moving work that National PTA expects to have a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of students across the country. We look forward to sharing more stories and outcomes from our PTAs in the months ahead.

Learn More and Take Action

If your PTA is looking to maximize in-school student learning days by addressing vaccine hesitancy, check out the updated COVID-19 Resources page for useful materials and guidance.

And if your PTA is interested in hosting a community vaccination site, check out this resource. Hosting a vaccination clinic is easier than you think!

National PTA Grantee Cohort

State PTAs

  • Alaska
  • Washington

District, Council, and Regional PTAs

  • Miami Dade County Council (Miami, Fla.)
  • Montgomery County Council (Rockville, Md.)

Local PTAs

  • Adams Hill Elementary (San Antonio, Texas)
  • Adams Elementary (Norman, Okla.)
  • Bethesda Elementary (Durham, N.C.)
  • B.M. Williams Primary (Chesapeake, Va.)
  • Crestwood Intermediate (Chesapeake, Va.)
  • Forest Ridge Elementary School (Laurel, Md.)
  • Lawrence Number 2 School (Inwood, N.Y.)
  • Little Run Elementary (Fairfax, Va.)
  • Loftis Elementary (Hixson, Tenn.)
  • Martha Lake Elementary School (Lynnewood, Wash.)
  • Oak Grove Elementary (Bloomington, Minn.)
  • Ruth Oliver Walker Elementary (Florissant, Mo.)
  • Sanders Elementary School (Austell, Ga.)
  • Solar Prep for Boys (Dallas, Texas)
  • Urbana High School (Urbana, Ill.)

We Can Do This is a nationwide campaign to increase confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and reinforce basic prevention measures. It is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services and facilitated by the Fors Marsh Group. Learn more at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.

Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact

Give Smart, Leave a Legacy and Make a Lasting Impact 

The last few years have been anything but normal. The pandemic has hit the economy hard and the ripple effects have impacted everything from how we buy cars to who is making our coffee. You aren’t alone if you are keeping a closer eye on your finances.  

In the same way, PTAs across the country are also struggling with strained budgets, while at the same time, desperately trying to provide essential tools and services (like food, Wi-Fi access and mental health services) to their communities.  

If you are reading this, you are probably already supporting PTA with your time, talent and donations.  

Have you considered a gift to National PTA in your will or estate plans to cement your legacy of support for kids and families?  

Leaving a gift in your will allows you to make a significant gift to the mission and work of National PTA, while retaining control of your assets during your lifetime. That’s the advantage of a bequest—you can provide for your family today and still invest in PTA’s work to protect and support every child for tomorrow. 

Did you know you can make a bequest in your will with as little as the addition of one sentence? You can designate the National PTA as the beneficiary of a specific amount or asset, or you can allocate a percentage of your total estate. 

When you include the National PTA in your will, you become a valued member of National PTA’s legacy recognition program, The Oak Tree Circle. We recognize the significance of every bequest and appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude by saying thank you today. 


If you would like to learn more, or if you have already included National PTA in your will, please email Caroline Condon at bequests@PTA.org  

How Your PTA Can Support Social and Emotional Learning 

We know social and emotional learning (SEL) happens at home and at school, but how do we bridge the two learning environments? That’s where your PTA comes in! 

National PTA has introduced our Healthy Minds program to help families and schools work together to support kids’ mental health and well-being. SEL is a key component of our approach to healthy minds! Throughout the pandemic, PTAs across the nation doubled down on their commitment to SEL in big and small ways. 

For example, to combat feelings of isolation and stress in their communities, many PTAs distributed mental wellness kits. These bags of resources provided a range of materials including everything from stress balls and fidgets for children to use to aromatherapy candles.  

Several PTAs also collaborated with school counselors to support their communities. In Georgia, Bartlett Middle School PTSA implemented a new “Coffee with the Counselors” event series, during which counselors would choose a hot topic and facilitate a discussion for families and students. Families were able to get professional advice on relevant issues and access a safe space to practice having these important discussions with their children. 

Meanwhile, in Utah, Bonneville Elementary PTA used a National PTA COVID-19 Relief Fund Grant to collaborate with school leadership to create a wellness center for students. They transformed an unused classroom into an inviting, therapeutic space distinct from the academic setting. A partition separates the Wellness Center into two main areas:  

  • In the Wellness Room, students can take a break during the school day when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. It is a place to process and connect.  
  • In the Resource Room, parents can find materials to help them manage mental health at home and in the community.  

You can learn more about Bonneville’s innovative approach in our Mental Health/Social-Emotional Support COVID-19 Relief Case Study

If you’re feeling inspired by these SEL success stories, here are some tips for getting started in your own community! 

Educate families about social and emotional learning, and why it matters! For families to reinforce social and emotional learning at home, they need to first understand what SEL is and how their children can benefit from it. There are so many ways PTAs can promote learning in their community, from sharing relevant informational and family activity handouts and podcast episodes, to hosting a book club or an event night. 

Help families and teachers develop a common vocabulary when talking about SEL. Discover what language your school uses when talking about social and emotional learning and life skills. Perhaps they use the CASEL wheel, the Second Step Program, or their own homegrown approach with school-selected core values. Either way, it’s important that all community members are on the same page! You can learn more about key SEL skill areas at PTA.org/SocialEmotional.  

Host activities and events that will help students (and their families) build social and emotional skills. You can incorporate SEL activities into your already existing events like your Fall Festival or even as a welcome before a movie night or pizza party. Feelings Charades is a great example for younger kids that can be adapted to fill just a little bit of time, or a longer window!  

Looking for a fun way to get tweens and teens to grapple with bigger SEL topics like identity, purpose, and decision-making? Hosting an event night where middle and high schoolers write Letters to their Future Selves is a fun way to prompt meaningful reflection. 

For even more ideas and resources, visit PTA.org/SocialEmotional  

How Does a PTA Become a National School of Excellence?

The year-long commitment to becoming a National PTA School of Excellence can seem daunting, but with step-by-step guidance and as many unique project plans as there are school communities, the journey is one well-worth taking. PTAs all over the nation have led their schools to the top, showcasing their incredible dedication to improvement, consistent engagement with school community members and, yes, the power of a little elbow grease!

Here’s how a few of the 2020-2022 National PTA School of Excellence designees earned this prestigious two-year, national recognition.

BELLA VISTA PTA, CALIFORNIA

Bella Vista PTA in California showed they were School of Excellence material when they took the challenges of COVID-19 head on, promoting healthy lifestyles in their school community. Although the pandemic presented new challenges to Bella Vista PTA and their school community; they continued to ensure the health and safety of their students and promote healthy habits at home and at school.

The school adapted a virtual/hybrid model of learning, and the PTA used all of their communication channels to share tips and reminders on how to thrive, both physically and mentally, in the midst of so much upheaval. Bella Vista PTA also added a “Health and Wellness” section to their newsletter and leveraged their social media platforms and website to continue to communicate health and wellness tips.

Through the School of Excellence program, Bella Vista PTA took initiative by identifying the need to promote healthy lifestyles during a time that could have been far too sedentary for students. While remote learning, students were constantly sitting at their computers and not getting up and changing classrooms or going to recess like they did before the pandemic. The PTA raised awareness around health and wellness and brought their community together during a trying time, which is exactly what a School of Excellence does to lead the way to a successful future.

SAMUEL BISSELL ELEMENTARY PTA, OHIO

Promoting healthy lifestyles for students and their families is just one way to start your school’s School of Excellence path. Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA in Ohio decided to go in another direction. They confronted the problems of COVID-19 by stepping up their virtual programming to encourage learning, support education, and foster a strong sense of community.

The school district gave parents the option to be on campus or be virtual for the entire school year. This allowed parents to have the choice to do what was best for their family, but it also made extra work for the school and PTA to make sure this year was successful.

In response, Samuel Bissell PTA provided a Family Fun Week that was inclusive to all students, both In Person and At Home. They partnered with Young Chef of Solon and presented a cooking night where they gave away measuring cups. Next, they hosted a Paint Night, where they provided all of the materials and hired an artist from California to teach participants how to paint hot air balloons. Finally, Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA hosted a Trivia Night and a Bingo Night with prizes and a dance party with a DJ, where participants received glow sticks.

In addition to hosting fun events, the PTA also supported curriculum. With students wearing masks at school and others learning remotely, the school and PTA purchased student “Fundations At-Home Packets,” low-tech educational packets that are customized for each curriculum level for at home, blended learning.

Samuel Bissell’s PTA also provided the entire school with Chromebooks, which gave students and staff the ability to learn safely and have the flexibility to be in-person or virtual, because everyone could connect on Google Classroom and Google Meet. The school also went paperless to avoid contact, and in doing so, everyone received clear bookbags to carry Chromebooks and school supplies to avoid assigning lockers. The Chromebooks also allowed for teachers to easily use the Smart Boards and to have the proper technology to connect with each student.

With virtual learning and the students spending more time on the computer than ever before, Samuel Bissell’s PTA held an Internet Safety Night, which featured an informational technology expert. Parents learned what apps and games their children are likely to be using, and what they should watch for when it comes to their child and the internet. The evening event allowed parents to feel more connected to their kids and continued to support virtual learners by helping them stay safe.

As you can see, Samuel Bissell Elementary PTA worked with their community and school to provide a creative path for student success!

WILSON MIDDLE SCHOOL PTA, TEXAS

Wilson Middle School PTA in Texas became a School of Excellence through the third National Standard of Family-School Partnerships—Supporting Student Success. In partnership with the Wilson Administration, Wilson Math Department and 24-person PTA Board, this PTA created a Dreambox Math Initiative. The four-week program was designed to encourage math practice outside of school time to meet students where they are and increase skill acquisition based on each student’s performance.

Funded through a National PTA Grant, Wilson PTA engaged community business partners, including Chick-fil-A and Jason’s Deli, to provide discounted giveaways. Outreach to families was provided through emails, voicemails, flyers, carpool lane signs, the PTA website, Facebook posts and the PTA newsletter.

Each week students were offered giveaways of increasing interest or value, such as a Ram Mystery Bag of fun tchotchkes or a Ram Snack Pack. The final week culminated with a Chick-fil-a lunch for students that met their goals. Students were both motivated to practice math and were awarded with fun activities and giveaways. An average of 272 participating students were impacted each week.

Wilson’s head of the math department, Michelle Boudoin, also found value in setting a new standard of collaboration with Wilson PTA to support student success, sharing, “The initiative was a great motivator that increased student participation. Our teachers and students learned a lot about tracking progress and meeting the specific needs of different learning objectives for students. We look forward to finding future programs to build student growth over time and partnering with PTA to increase student motivation.”

Principal Mark Letterer offered perspective on testing metrics which measured the success of their PTA’s new initiative, saying, “In a year of co-seating and delivery of a new instructional model, Wilson Middle School continued to provide quality academic instruction, supported by our PTA. This was evidenced by our state testing data that saw 100% of our eighth-grade Algebra 1 EOC students meet state standards. In addition, the remainder of our eighth-grade math STAAR scores indicated performance above the district average ranking in the top quartile of district middle schools. This is an exceptional accomplishment where we outperformed all other comparable schools in our district.”

Preliminary data reports show the school’s sixth grade math scores to be consistent with past years and again outperforming a high percentage of comparable Title I school in the number of students who performed at or above grade level expectations. Thanks in part to the Wilson PTA’s efforts, Wilson students achieved near or above district averages in most every tested area.

These PTAs achieved the highly coveted School of Excellence designation by making their school communities better through improving educational outcomes, promoting healthy lifestyles and confronting identified problems head on with dedication, collaboration and open lines of communication.

Each School of Excellence journey looks different because the needs of each school community vary, but it’s easy to see what they all have in common—a caring group of school leaders that use feedback and data to make informed and intentional decisions to strengthen family-school partnerships.

Let National PTA’s School of Excellence program provide a framework to help your PTA identify areas of need, develop and implement action plans based in best practice for transformative family engagement and celebrate accomplishments!

Enrollment is open through Friday, Oct. 15 at PTA.org/Excellence. Email Excellence@PTA.org with any questions.

Back to School and Back to PTA means Engaging Families and Growing Membership!

by Linda Johnson and Kirthana Krishnathasan

A new school year means new opportunities to grow your PTA. This past year was tough for so many PTAs, families and communities. As you prepare for back to school, you may be wondering how you can grow your PTA membership this year. Would you be surprised to learn that even during the pandemic, there were PTAs across the country that were able to grow their membership last year?!

We talked to some of these PTAs and here’s what they shared about what helped them engage families in their communities and grow their membership.

  • Start as early as you can, but it’s never too late to make the effort!
  • Make joining as easy as possible. Contact your state PTA to find out if there is an online membership platform available. If you use a paper form, make sure they are available everywhere. Make sure all PTA board members and the school(s) have a supply on hand. Provide a link to your join PTA page or form in every communication.
  • Ask everyone who was a member last year to support the PTA/PTSA again this year. Send out email renewal notices to everyone who was a member last year.
  • Use a QR code that links to your online membership join platform and put it everywhere! Have it on signs at all your PTA and school events, put it on your social media, on any flyers that are sent home, on signs around the school or even on business cards for your board. Check out this video on How to Create a QR code in less than a minute.
  • Ask your principal to share the value your PTA brings to your school and encourage families and teachers to support PTA.
  • Use all communication channels—in person, direct emails, newsletters, flyers, banners, school marquis, social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok.
  • Ask for people to join PTA all year at every virtual, in person or drive thru event. Check out these sample Join PTA/PTSA emails.
  • Ask everyone to join your PTA. Membership is open to anyone who supports the PTA mission: families, teachers, staff, students (if allowed), community members, public officials, etc.
  • Add a Join PTA button to all your online event(s) or volunteer sign ups.
  • PTA in a virtual way to attract more families who can’t always attend in person.
  • Focus on issues important to the families in your community. DIY Kit for Membership Growth helps you determine the needs of your community and how to align your PTA priorities.
  • Provide special benefits/perks to your PTA members: family membership, free popcorn at movie night, discount to a local business, etc.
  • Toot your PTA horn! Make sure your whole community (not just members) knows all the ways your PTA is supporting students and families. Brand everything you do so your community knows it is the PTA doing the work or providing the financial support. It takes just a few minutes to Customize PTA logos or you can use graphics from the Membership Campaign to share the value of your PTA.
  • Translate materials in the languages that are spoken by families in your community to be inclusive.

Check out the new 125 Ways to Grow Membership, 10 Myths/Truths and many other membership recruitment tools available to help you grow your PTA.

Have questions or need support, reach out to us at membership@pta.org.