Eleven Ways to Draw a Crowd to Your PTA Meetings

By Heather Ippolito, Vice President for Family Engagement

PTA units are always asking our state leaders “How can we get more people to attend our association meetings and events?” The Leadership Services and Family Engagement commissions teamed up and found some really great strategies to help answer this question that you might want to try in the upcoming school year.*

  1. Have snacks.
  2. Partner with the school to offer childcare.
  3. Offer translation and interpretation services so that EVERY parent can participate in your meeting. (Note: You also need to invite them in their home language.)
  4. Play music as they enter to give the room a fun atmosphere — we know PTA meetings aren’t boring, but other parents might have that impression.
  5. Have opportunity drawings for all in attendance. You can give away spirit wear, homework passes, or gift cards that have been donated by local businesses. 
  6. Incorporate a student performance as part of your meeting. Parents love to see their kids sing, dance, show off that poster or project they’ve been working on, etc.
  7. Give a homework pass to every parent who attends. Work with your school principal on this particular incentive to make sure that every teacher is on board with this incentive.
  8. Provide parent education at your meeting. We have seen success with inviting the local library to talk about reading programs, the sheriff to talk about bullying or biking safety, or even asking your principal to share about different issues impacting parents. This is a great chance to work with the organizations in your community since they often offer free programs that families will find useful.
  9. Bring in guest speakers. Your guests can either be entertaining or educational, but oftentimes a new name can draw a large audience.  
  10. Pair your meeting with another event. You could have your meeting right before the Family Math Night on campus or at the bowling alley before Family Bowling Night — either way you are far more likely to draw a crowd.
  11. Finally, really think about the time and location of your meeting. Are you meeting at a time that’s good for you, or a time that is good for your families? Is your meeting location convenient? Many units think the school is the only place for a meeting, but we do have other options. We can meet at a park, the library, a community center, or other places where our parents frequent. Really be intentional in asking our families the best times and places to meet.

*Note: We know that this year may still have a combination of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events and meetings. Many of these ideas can be adaptable to your particular needs.

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Family Engagement: A Hot Back-to-School Topic

As the summer ends, many workshops, webinars, and virtual conferences are preparing educational leaders, teachers, and parents for the return to school.  Our Family Engagement Team has attended several of them. 

Here are some of the take-aways:

  • We can no longer move forward with families on the sidelines of education.  The pandemic brought families into the classrooms as learning went virtual and parents were forced to monitor/assist with their child’s learning.  Now that these lines of communication and collaboration between our schools and our families have been opened it is critical that we continue on this path.
  • We have spoken for years about the impact of family engagement on students (higher test scores, better attendance, etc.) but we need to mention the impact of family engagement on families as a whole.  Dr. Karen Mapp sites the following things that parents experience as a result of being involved on their child’s school campus:  
    • Their role perception shifts from just a “mom” or “dad” to a “teacher”, “mentor”, or “expert”
    • They gain confidence in their ability to shape and influence their child’s learning
    • They have an increased sense of accountability and begin to advocate for all children
    • They become empowered to take on new challenges– that could include serving on district committees, running for school board, etc. 
  • Family engagement is not a program but a practice— something that every school, administrator, and teacher needs to embrace so that our children can be the best they can be.  Families must be part of the team of experts.
  • Families are as vital to student success as school climate and teachers. A 20-year study from schools in Chicago found there are 5 essential supports for successful schools:  leadership (administration), professional capacity, parent/community ties, student-centered learning climate, instructional guidance (professional development). 
  • Social and emotional learning (SEL) is of particular importance this year. SEL has been a huge topic in most of the workshops about returning to school.  If you want more information to understand just what SEL entails and how families play a major role in social and emotional learning, watch this five-minute video from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

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