A Walk Through The History of PTA

Some of the most common questions we hear from people in regards to the PTA are, "What has the PTA REALLY done for our children?" and "What impact can we really make as a member?"

In response to these questions we throught it prudent to provide a brief and high level view of some of the things PTA as a whole has accomplished.  One thing to consider, however, is that while these accomplishments are rather significant, they do not completely encompass all the accomplishments of the PTA at the National, State, or individual unit levels.  We've got some unsung heroes out there who we're certain have done other great things as well!

The link provided immediately below is a PowerPoint Presentation of "A Walk Through PTA History" that was presented by Deb Fritz, our National Service Representative, at our 2010 State PTA Convention.  It is rather large (about 40+ MB) so we strongly encourage you to download the document and view it at your leisure.  For those that don't have the capacity or ability to download the 40 MB file, or the ability to view it, we've provided a list of some of the main points below.  If you have the ability though, we highly recommend downloading the PowerPoint presentation as it contains many images and in some cases further detail. 

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Summary of "A Walk Through PTA History"

The Early Years

PTA was founded in 1897.  The founders had a dream to change the minds of parents, the public, and the government in order to improve the lives of children.
National Congress of Mothers established in 1897 by our founders - Alice McLellan Birney - A teacher and widow with two children and Phoebe Apperson Hearst - Mother of publishing giant William Randolph Hearst

First Meeting Held in Washington, DC in 1897

The first meeting of the National Congress of Mothers was held in Washington, DC on February 17th, 1897.  News spread of this new congress and cause and their voices were heard all across the country.

First Annual Meeting the following year 

The following year, more than 2000 attended the first annual meeting in Washington, DC.

Publicly Against Discrimination in an Era that Condoned It

In an era where discrimination was tantamount, the PTA welcomed ALL members regardless of color, creed, or condition.

Concerned about Health and Sanitation Issues for Infants and Youth

At it's founding, gave lessons such as the "Cradle Lesson" amongst others to help teach others about health and sanitation.

Advocated for a Separate Juvenile Justice System

National PTA advocated for a separate Juvenile Justice System so that children wouldn't be tried and incarcerated as adults.
This is the basis for the juvenile justice system today

Advocated for Child Labor Laws

National PTA advocated for Child Labor Laws to protect children against unsafe work practices and conditions

Early 1900's

President Theodore Roosevelt serves on PTA Advisory Council of Fathers
Chartered a Network of State Organizations and Built a Network of Mothers

Via an official Plea for the formation of Parent's Clubs in Connection with Schools

National PTA Supported Early Childhood Education (Kindergarten)

National PTA fought for the establishment of Kindergarten as part of the public school system.

Advocated for Sex Education to Pre-pubescent Youth

As early as 1916, PTA advocated that sex education be taught to children before reaching puberty.


Encouraged Greater Moral and Spiritual Education of Children
Provided Reviews of Moving Pictures
Began the First "Drive Safely" Campaign
Another Founder - Selena Sloan Butler

One woman who took up the parent-teacher cause was African-American teacher and child advocate, Selena Sloan Butler.
Attended PTA Conferences and in 1926 founded the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers (NCCPT) in states where segregation was legally sanctioned.
From the onset, the National Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers admitted into its ranks all who cared for the "betterment of child life".

Summer Round-Up

A Nationwide Children's Health Project created by PTA and the U.S Bureau of Education.
Helped educate parents and had every 1st grader registered and examined by a doctor and dentist before entering school.
It was the first means to gather a standardized assessment of school children's health.

1929 - Stock Market Crashes

Millions lost their jobs, and many schools were closed
PTA Advocates for Federal Aid to Re-open Schools and provide Meals

National PTA advocated for federal aid to be used to reopen closed schools and to provide school lunch programs for needy children.


NCCPT Calls for Leaders 

NCCPT called for African-Americans to assume leadership positions as superintendents and board members in segregated school districts.

Selena Sloan goes International 

Selena Sloan presented early childhood information at conferences of the Nursery School Association of Great Britain.

PTA Becomes an Official Co-Sponsor of American Education Week

1940's - World War II Era

PTA Establishes War Emergency Committees

During the war years, PTA established War Emergency Committees, organized paper and scrap drives, and created "safe houses" where children could find refuge in case of attack.

NCCPT Organizes First Aid Instruction, Salvage Drives, and War Bond Purchases
National PTA and the United Nations

National PTA was a consultant to the U.S. Delegates when the United Nations was founded in 1945.

Hot Lunch Program

PTA advocated for the establishment of a Federally Funded School Lunch Program.  Today this program feeds more than 26 million children a day.


Fighting Polio

One of PTA's greatest achievements was its work with the March of Dimes to implement a nationwide polio vaccination program.
Local members across the country volunteered to administer the vaccine to 1.8 children in 1954.

Desegregation - Brown vs Board of Education

The Brown vs Board of Education decision declared school segregation unconstitutional and changed the face of public education.
After the Brown vs Board of Education decision, the PTA and NCCPT held their conventions in conjunction with one another.
Separate local units began to dessolve and unite as one entity to work for children.

Sputnik Launched in 1957

In response to this launch, the U.S. education focus changed to emphasize math and science in all grade levels.
PTA worked diligently to aid the U.S. Congress in passing the National Defense Education Act.  This legislation sought to close the science gap.


PTA Membership Soars to Over 12 Million Members
Formal Merge of PTA and NCCPT

In 1966, the two associations began formal talks about unification and formally merged in 1970.
Despite riots in some areas because of racial tensions, integration proceeded effectively enough to see many local units of the NCCPT merge with local PTA units.

Anti-Smoking Campaigns

All PTA Units encouraged to educate children on the health hazards of smoking cigarettes.
PTA sought to inspire young people to become the first smokeless generation.

Mary Lou Anderson creates Reflections

In 1969, Mary Lou Anderson, then Colorado PTA President, created the arts achievement program called Reflections.
Today, more than half a million students participate in Reflections each year.


NCCPT and PTA Formally Merge

The NCCPT and PTA formally merged on June 22, 1970 and so did their identical missions --- to improve the lives of all children.

Headline: National PTA Putting TV on Probation

PTA commission investigates issues of increasing TV violence, how women are depicted, and effects on the children.
Findings reveal need for parents to more carefully supervise what their children watch.

Urban Outreach

In 1977, PTA initiated the Urban Education Project to identify crucial problems confronting urban schools and develop new and dynamic strategies for solving urban problems.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974

PTA counts as a victory the passage of this act.
The law gave parents the right to inspect their child's school records and correct and challenge them if necessary.

1980's - Education Reform

PTA Opposes Massive Cuts in Federal School Lunches and Nutrition Programs

When the Reagan administration sought massive cuts in federal school lunch and child nutrition programs, PTA made it's voide heard.
PTA went on record opposing all legislation that disproportionately affected children

"Looking In On Your School" Project

In response to public concern over the condition of schools, PTA initiates the "Looking In On Your School Project".
The project was designed to promote teamwork among parents, principals, teachers, and students to improve public schools.

HIV/AIDS Education

PTA undertakes massive public education campaign to explain the nature of HIV/AIDS to parents, children, and youth.


Child Safety

From seat belts to bike helmets, PTA has always called for the highest standards of safety for children.
With the help of corporate sponsors, PTA produces and distributes bike safety and bus safety information and Public Service Announcements.

Parent Involvement

Parent involvement becomes buzzword of the education community
PTA hosts Parent Involvement Summit where 28 education organizations meet to discuss what each can do to encourage greater parent involvement

Urban Outreach

Ebony co-develops a video with National PTA titled, Guide to Student Excellence featuring interviews with Dr. Maya Angelou and Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund.

PTA Joins the World Wide Web

In 1995, National PTA launches its first website at www.pta.org
Today, PTA's website attracts more than 3 million unique visitors a year

PTA and TV Ratings

PTA advocates for a television rating system that will help parents know the content of TV programming, not just age appropriateness
FCC adopts TV rating system with content codes in 1998

Parent Involvement Standards

PTA publishes the first National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs in 1998
These standards would later define "parent involvement" in the No Child Left Behind Act


Building Successful Partnerships

National PTA publishes "the" book on parent involvement -- Building Successful Partnerships
Based on the six national standards, the book provides a blueprint for developing successful parent involvement programs that work

Hispanic Initiative

PTA steps up translation efforts on more parenting resources than ever before, including national advertising and its website
PTA also launches Hispanic Initiative in three pilot states to identify and mentor Hispanic leaders within the organization.

Five Cents Makes Sense Campaign

Less than 3 cents of every federal dollar goes to education funding
PTA enacts Five Cents Makes Sense Campaign to lobby Congress for 5 cents of every dollar to fully fund all educational programs for our public schools

National PSAs

National PTA and The Ad Council launch national Public Service Announcements in English and Spanish to increase awareness of the need and benefits of parent involvement
The media has donated more than $600 million worth of advertising placements to carry our PSAs and help spread our message

Responding to Tragedy

During this decade, PTA also responded to national tragedy and disaster --- first to September 11 and then to Hurricane Katrina.

As PTA Enters a New Century

Parent involvement will remain at the core of everything we do
Health and Safety issues will continue to be priorities
We'll hold steadfast on increasing funding for public schools

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