If you’re a preschool director, teacher, or staff member, chances are you’re already on board with the idea of parents getting more involved with their child’s education. The challenge is finding meaningful ways to help transform that goal into a reality. Some schools opt to open a Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) chapter, but sometimes parents are reluctant to join a nationally-run organization that requires membership dues and abides by nationally-decided regulations. It can sound like a lot of hassle and red tape to get involved in such a large organization.
Instead, many schools have decided to start their own Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). These are independent groups that focus on the needs of each individual school. In this article, we’ll explore the way starting a PTO could help your preschool as well as some tips on getting your group organized and off the ground.
1. PTO’s are a practical way to get parents more involved in their child’s educational process. Getting parents involved can lead to marked academic and behavioral improvement for students.
Dr. Karen L. Mapp, Ed. D., from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, conducts research focused on improving student achievement through cooperation between schools, families, and the surrounding community. Her findings, as well as many similar research studies, indicate that parental involvement leads to better outcomes for students in a wide variety of different areas. These would include lowering school dropout rates, raising student attendance rates, and increasing the number of students attaining higher education levels.
Preschool directors and teachers probably wouldn’t be surprised at Dr. Mapp’s discovery that young students with involved parents also tend to learn to read more quickly than those whose parents aren’t engaged in their educational process.
2. Teachers and parents learn to work as a team as they collaborate on PTO projects together. Communicating with one another on a regular basis leads to increased cooperation toward seeking the best interests of students.
3. Parents who join PTOs catch a vision of ways they can support the school through involvement in fundraising efforts and volunteering to help with school programs. This increased parental participation gives teachers more time to focus on providing quality instruction.
4. Parents who get involved in the PTO can help keep the rest of the parents up-to-date on upcoming school events and fundraisers.
If these benefits convince you that a PTO would help your preschool, perhaps you’re wondering how to start one. Here’s a game plan you can follow.
Steps to Starting a PTO at Your School
1. Ask the school administration to consider the benefits of starting a PTO. It would be best to set up a private meeting so you’ll have their full attention. Then carefully explain the advantages which PTOs have to offer students, parents, and teachers.
2. Once the administration agrees to starting the PTO, submit a flier explaining the new group to the administration to be approved for distribution to parents.
3. Start out the year with a PTO sign-up event. In order to build excitement and increase participation, you could include some fun activities, such as food booths and carnival games. Or, if that idea sounds a bit overwhelming, just plan a low-key meeting with a few light refreshments. Just make sure to get the word out to parents in advance so they can try to fit the initial meeting into their schedules.
4. Form a PTO leadership group to take care of the organizational side of meetings. They can set the agenda, such as coordinating events, planning discussions, and raising funds for various needs around the school.
5. Work with PTO leaders and members to formulate a clear, concise mission statement and a set of rules of order to follow for meetings and for the organization as a whole.
Parent Teacher Organizations are a powerful tool to get parents and teachers working together to boost student success. If you’re convinced that a PTO would help your preschool, get in touch with your administrator as soon as possible.