Not all parents want to be PTA moms

Parents want to be involved in their children’s education, but in diffferent ways, according to Ready, Willing and Able?, a new Public Agenda survey of parents in the Kansas City, Missouri area.

While 52 percent say parent involvement at home will do the most to improve schools, 42 percent say parents should be more involved in running schools.

A successful family involvement program must appeal to three types of parents, Public Agenda recommended.

Help seekers: Roughly 19 percent of parents are most concerned with finding out their own children’s academic progress and learning how they can help their students improve. . . . The majority say they don’t know how and don’t have time to do more than they already are doing to be involved in school.

School helpers: This 27 percent of parents is the closest to the traditional picture of the “PTA mom and dad.” Nearly three out of four of them have already volunteered at the school in the past year, and they are most likely of all parents to trust the school officials. According to the study, these parents are open to “traditional” school involvement such as hall monitoring or fundraising, but less comfortable with contributing to school policies.

Potential transformers: Finally, 31 percent of parents said they were interested in and ready to be more involved in shaping how the schools operate. They are more likely to be aware of how their own school and district stack up to others in terms of academic performance and teacher qualifications, and they are also more likely than other parents to know what classes and skills their children need to be prepared for college. However, only between a quarter and a third of these parents have actually been asked to get more involved.

Half of Kansas City parents said they could be more involved at their child’s school if they made an effort.

About Joanne


  1. In my experience, and from what I’ve read, few schools want anything to do with potential transformers; they don’t want their boat rocked. They are happy with the school helpers, provided they do what they’re told and don’t ask questions. They may, or may not, be willing to accommodate the help seekers and it’s likely to vary among individual teachers.

  2. lightly seasoned says:

    I could be more involved with my child’s school if I made more effort, and I work there.

    The trouble with “transformers” is that different parents have very different ideas of what that transformation might look like. Look at all the different opinions from the regulars here. Imagine all trying to transform the same school.

  3. Crimson Wife says:

    I’m not interested in fundraising or chaperoning field trips. I would, however, like to have the opportunity to send my children to a co-op elementary school similar to the co-op preschool that my oldest attended. Parents there actually had a real say in how that school operated, what got taught, deciding which teachers to hire and if to keep them on vs. replace them, etc.

    Politicians, district administrators, and teacher’s unions are not interested in empowering parents to have a real say in how public schools are run. They just want parents’ money and free labor doing fundraising.

  4. Contrary to popular storylines, parent involvement in schools was not a regular part of my public school or my husband’s parochial school (from early 40s through 60s) or any school attended by our friends and relatives. Other than possible birthday treats, parent support was exercised at home. The (rare) field trips were to a local pond or something similarly local and the teacher was the only adult. This was also largely true for my own kids, with the exception of field trips on buses to DC museums (about 30″ away), which did entail parent chaperones. If parents do their job socializing their kids and preparing them appropriately for school and make education a high priority, schools should handle the rest; they employ vastly more adults than formerly. For the rest, I agree with CW – again.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      There was a lot more local control back decades ago, however.

      • I don’t know how you’d quantify the degree of local control but there sure was less funding. Even when adjusted for inflation.

        On the evidence, all that funding’s bought more and better excuses for ineffectiveness. God knows it hasn’t bought better education.

  5. CW; Perhaps there was more local control, overall, when i was young, but my kids were raised in an area with very large and powerful county-wide systems in place. The system did what it wanted and paid no attention to parent preferences and my oldest started school in the early 80s. One example: After my older kids entered HS, the HS catchment area was asked to vote, per MCPS regs, on whether to keep the 7-8 JHS or change to a 6-7-8 MS. The vote was overwhelmingly to keep the JHS. MCPS immediately turned it into a MS. Apparently, there was no reg requiring the system to pay any attention to the voting results. My younger kids went to the MS and it was nowhere as academically strong as the JHS had been and it emphasized all of the worst aspects of early adolescence.

    • Crimson Wife says:

      The district where I grew up had a single elementary and a single secondary school. The school board members were all parents. There were very little in the way of state or Federal mandates for general ed students. Nothing like the micromanaging today.