Though many parents are short on time, they still have a strong desire to become engaged not only in their student’s education, but also in their environment at school. Perhaps the single best way to make this happen is to join the PTO, which has traditional stood for Parent Teacher Organization. As its name implies, the PTO is concerned primarily with connecting teachers and parents so that they can better discuss the nature of their child’s education, the benefits and challenges facing the school district, and how volunteer efforts or any level of involvement might benefit all stakeholders in a dramatic, dynamic way.
Many parents know of the PTO, but they’re still on the fence about whether or not to join the organization and dedicate some amount of time to it. With many households relying on dual incomes and plenty of time spent at the office, it can seem as if there just isn’t any time to spare for involvement in this way. There are, however, plenty of reasons to join and plenty of opportunities even for the most time-constrained parents in a given school district. The top ten reasons to join range from academic benefits to personal fulfillment and beyond.
10. More Needs, Fewer Resources, But Plenty of Parents
Education has had a few rough years, it seems. More and more states are cutting back on state-based aid to public schools, while asking either local taxpayers or parents to pick up the tab. Now more than ever, schools have a dire need for donations, volunteer work, and any sort of unique assistance that parents can give. The best part of PTO participation is that these services can be split among many parents who have the skills, resources, or available time to help. Better yet, participating in such activities only serves to enrich the educational experiences that children gain in the classroom. Every parent wants the best for their child in the classroom, and PTO involvement can help parents make noticeable, long-term improvements on behalf of their child and many others
9. Kids are Proud of Their Involved Parents
Ignoring that awkward teenage phase when most kids pretend they simply don’t have parents, the truth is that most kids are proud to see their parents volunteer in the school and have some level of involvement with their teachers and others. Children like to know that they’re valued, and that their parents care about what’s going on even when they’re not home. Seeing a parent in the classroom affirms this, and both sides benefit from a mutual understanding throughout the educational process.
8. Socializing With Other Parents is a Real Benefit
Every parent has probably had a moment of active parenting when they wonder, “Is it just me?” The same can be said of homework assignments that seem impossible for both parents and students, or teachers that parents don’t seem to understand. Socializing with other parents in the district via PTO involvement helps parents overcome these questions and concerns, and lets them relate to others who either share their concerns or have a reassuring answer to share.
7. PTO Involvement Improves Classroom Behavior
Studies have shown that kids with more involved parents are less likely to act out in the classroom. This might be because the PTO connects the student’s parent with their teacher, or it might simply be because their parents have set an example when it comes to valuing the classroom and the professional who manages it. Either way, students with involved parents tend to have fewer behavior problems, higher homework completion rates, and less of a reputation for disrupting the learning process. That doesn’t just benefit one student: Improvements like this benefit the entire class throughout the year.
6. PTO Involvement Can Be Limited Based on Availability
Though the PTO regularly schedules meetings during the week, most PTO chapters know that they need to accommodate the growing number of parents who simply don’t have an extra minute to spare in the evening. That’s why these organizations regularly schedule weekend meetings or take advantage of common days off. As long as parents are willing to consider unique ways of fitting PTO events and meetings into their already busy calendar, they’ll be able to attend at least one meeting a month that will reveal how their student is doing, how the school district is performing, and where new opportunities exist for support, fundraising, volunteer services, and more.
5. Students Benefit Academically from Parent Involvement in PTO
Much has been made of standardized test scores, with words like “advanced” and “proficient” becoming the biggest buzzwords of education over the last decade. Many parents are concerned with the quality of their child’s education and the outcome of their performance on these standardized tests, and there’s one proven way to improve both of these areas: More involvement in organizations like the PTO.
In study after study, researchers have shown that students who have more involved parents are simply more likely to get high marks on standardized tests. They’re also more likely to volunteer in class, get good grades on class tests and quizzes, and make more friends. In fact, these same studies showed that more involvement by parents equated to higher achievement by their students.
4. PTOs are Not Nationally Controlled or Affiliated
The terms PTO and PTA are sometimes used interchangeably, but they shouldn’t be. PTO organizations are and have no national affiliation. That means they’re less rigid, less structured, and more accommodating to the unique needs of parents in a given school or within a certain school district. In a world where it can be hard to schedule time to volunteer, this independent operation and more accommodating nature are absolutely essential. They’re also a persuasive argument for joining the group and seeing exactly which opportunities are available.
3. PTO Members Get the Inside Track on New Developments
Ever wanted to know in advance whether a key school program is changing or being eliminated? Ever wanted to have a say on the implementation of new, important programs that will benefit student achievement? PTO members get that opportunity in most school districts. They’ll meet with teachers and administrators, and they’ll learn of important developments before the broader community hears about them. This gives them more time to prepare their student or to consider pursuing new opportunities in the district that might benefit their child’s achievement and learning.
2. PTO is About Organization, Not Solicitation
Many parents fear that their role in a PTO group will be to solicit fundraising donations from community members, going door-to-door until a goal is reached. This just isn’t the case. While parents are always welcome to offer new ideas for school fundraising campaigns, and can even chair a given fundraising campaigns in some districts, that’s not the primary goal of the PTO. Parents aren’t expected to be fundraisers. They’re expected to be members, supporters, volunteers, and proud parents working for the benefit of all students in the district.
1. Better Education and Professional Morale
Times haven’t just been hard for school districts. By extension, these have also been trying times for teachers who simply don’t have the resources or staff levels needed to accommodate every unique need and teach every critical lesson. Parental involvement in PTO organizations has been shown to lift a bit of this burden off teachers’ shoulders, improving the quality of education for all children in the classroom and directly raising teacher morale. When teachers see parent involvement in action, they feel as if they have an assistant at home. That kind of participation is encouraging no matter what grade level is being taught.