Parent-teacher organizations are volunteer groups that work to improve the education, health, and safety of children and youth in local communities. They encourage close cooperation between home and school to achieve this goal. Parent-Teacher Associations, called PTA’s or PTO’s (Parent-Teacher Organizations), are the most numerous and active of these groups in the United States. Other parent-teacher organizations include Home and School Associations, various local parent advisory committees, and school-based councils.
PTA’s are associated with the National Congress of Parents and Teachers, commonly called the National Parent Teacher Association or National PTA. These local associations also work with their state branch of the national organization. Most local PTA units function in public and private schools at the elementary, junior high, and high school levels.
Each local PTA draws up its own constitution, using the rules of the National PTA as guidelines. The constitution outlines the local unit’s specific purposes, procedures for holding meetings and planning programs, and rules for electing officers.
Membership in a PTA is open to anyone who wishes to help the organization achieve its objectives. A person who joins a local PTA automatically becomes a member of the state and national organizations as well.
Purpose. Each local PTA unit develops programs to suit the needs of its school and community and to fit the basic goals of the National PTA. These goals urge cooperation between parents and educators to give students all possible advantages in mental and physical education. The goals also call for improvement of the environment of children and youth in their home, school, and community. See National Congress of Parents and Teachers.
Activities and programs. Most PTA’s hold meetings regularly during the school year. These sessions bring parents and other citizens into schools to learn about courses of study and teaching methods.
Most PTA meetings include open discussions of the needs and problems of the school and the community. These discussions may lead to such organized efforts as campaigns to obtain new classroom equipment, build additional playgrounds, or improve traffic safety. In some cases, the National PTA gives information and materials to local PTA associations to carry out projects.
Local PTA’s organize field trips, set up tutoring programs in arithmetic and reading, and conduct health examinations. They also develop study-discussion groups in family life and other areas of parent education. Many local PTA units sponsor programs dealing with such matters as career and employment opportunities, delinquency, drug abuse, and intercultural understanding.
PTA’s often work with other community service organizations, including the American Legion, Boy and Girl Scouts, and 4-H clubs. Many PTA’s, together with such community groups, have worked for Head Start, a program of education and health for economically deprived preschool children. In addition, PTA members have helped provide books for small, poorly equipped schools in Appalachia, an economically depressed region in the Eastern United States.
Parent-Teacher-Student Associations (PTSA’s), like PTA’s, are associated with the National PTA. Most PTSA’s began as local PTA units in high schools. They expanded to include students, so that the young people could take an active role.
PTSA’s give students a role in planning the educational programs of public and private high schools. Some PTSA’s have helped develop new methods of instruction that provide greater opportunities for self-directed learning and independent study. Other PTSA’s have encouraged student governments to become more active. PTSA’s also work to include parents and children from all cultural, ethnic, and economic groups in school activities.
Other parent-teacher organizations
Home and School Associations are parent-teacher organizations that function chiefly in Roman Catholic schools. They promote a close working relationship between parents and teachers to further the goals of Catholic education. Home and School Associations also encourage parents to take an active interest in neighborhood conditions that influence children’s behavior. The associations try to improve their communities to help solve behavior problems among young people. Many local Home and School Associations cooperate with other community groups in promoting the care and protection of children and youth.
Home and School Associations develop their programs through committees and projects at the national, regional, and community levels. Most local associations operate in individual parishes (church districts). Several parishes also may combine to form an association.
Various public schools and non-Catholic private schools also have parent-teacher groups called Home and School Associations. The goals and services of these groups resemble those of the associations that function in Roman Catholic schools.
Local parent advisory committees have been formed in a number of public and private schools throughout the United States. Many of them assist in government-sponsored education programs for the children of underprivileged families. The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 requires officials of local schools to permit parents to take a direct part in planning and operating such programs. Parent advisory committees also help school administrators carry out programs that meet the educational needs of children at various schools.
School-based councils have been established through legislation in several states. These councils are formed by individual schools and include parents, teachers, and other community members. A school-based council helps a principal make improvements in a school.