California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Parent and family leadership

In spite of the fact that many young adolescents want their parents to be invisible, especially when peers are nearby, effective middle schools provide many invitations and opportunities for parent and family involvement. One way that many middle school parents or guardians stay involved is through leadership or participation in committees and events that improve school climate and student achievement.

In the Spotlight

Rio Norte Junior High School, William S. Hart Union High School District
The school boasts a strong Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) whose members continue to recruit successors by involving new parent/guardians at the beginning of each year. The PTSA hosts many interesting events for the entire school community. For example, at the annual Candidate’s Forum, the PTSA invites candidates for local or region offices to attend an evening community event at the school. History teachers give credit to students who attend. During Red Ribbon Week, the PTSA helps organize prizes and assemblies. PTSA volunteers help students log into their accounts in the library, monitor grounds during breaks, and help with before- and after-school traffic control, host fundraisers, assist with summer check-in, and serve as "team" parents for field trips. Each summer, the school staff mails a PTSA survey home with the school registration packet. In one year, the PTSA received 400 e-mails from parents interested in serving as a result of the survey.

If parents work several jobs and have students in a number of schools, planners can facilitate parent involvement in leadership teams by providing meals, child care, and, in some cases, transportation. Planners should consider other ways to encourage participation by all parents/guardians: use them as translators, plan festivals, and advertise coffeehouse chats with the principal, faculty members, or counselors.

The following is a short list of the ways parents and family members can provide leadership at their middle schools:

  • Home guidance for student work. Parents and family members are powerful leaders for educational excellence. Parents who understand grade-level standards, the earning potential for college graduates, and how to help students succeed, become powerful allies for achievement.

  • Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) leadership. Parent leaders on PTSA councils enjoy the satisfaction of raising money, test scores, and participation at middle school events.

  • Transition leaders for incoming parents. Just as students need help in making the transition from elementary to middle school, their parents often feel overwhelmed by the changes. Middle grades parents can help counselors plan events that will guide elementary school parents in understanding how to prepare for the middle grades.

  • School planning teams. Parents are important members of special leadership teams such as the school site planning council, the technology committee, and the school safety team.

  • Planning special events and field trips. Health fairs, recognition events, “Raising a Young Teen” presentations, library fund-raisers, field trips, and college awareness nights are just a few of the many special events parents can host to involve other parents and provide both awareness of and involvement in the school.

  • Organizing multicultural awareness activities. Family members can share foods, dances, stories, and games that illustrate their culture during multicultural lessons or events—see Recommendation 4, “Relevance” for more on Multicultural experiences.

  • Organize booster clubs. Schools often need parent leadership for raising funds to support sports, robotics clubs, visual and performing arts, or other special offerings that districts do not fully fund. Credentialed teachers must be present in any clubs that are run by parents.

  • Provide volunteer leadership for student clubs. Many schools rely on parent volunteers to run after-school clubs based on their areas of expertise (weaving robotics, leather work, etc.).

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