PPS of Hawaii is Taking On Misperceptions of Public Middle Schools

The Hawaii Chapter of Parents for Public Schools (PPS) is taking on the challenge of addressing the bad publicity and misperceptions of Hawaii’s public middle schools. Hawaii has developed and is implementing a Middle School Plan that provides parents with an awareness of the realities and facts of public middle school education. “Many people who choose private schools over public schools have never visited the public school in their neighborhood, but instead base their decision on hearsay and negative media coverage of public schools. In Hawaii, families may also hear negative rumors about public education that promote enrollment in private schools,” says PPS Hawaii President Lois Yamauchi. PPS of Hawaii launched their Middle School Plan by implementing Middle School Tours and Transition Nights. These activities were employed in order to provide families with accurate information about all of the opportunities available at public middle schools.

As part of its Middle School Plan, PPS of Hawaii hosts middle school tours in public middle and intermediate schools during the 2013-2014 school year. These tours are planned collaboratively with local middle and intermediate schools and are typically two hours long. Middle school aged children and their families are invited to come to middle schools and meet school leaders and staff, hear from current middle school students, learn about the school’s vision and programs, and find out how parents can be active participants in their children’s education. PTA members and school staff take small groups on tours of the campus to get a first-hand look at the school. After completing the tours, members of the school’s student council answer questions from families about homework, the online grade program, honors classes, student activities, clubs, and other points of interest. Feedback from parents who have participated in the Middle School Tours has been very positive regarding both the program offerings and the school staff. Several parents said taking a tour of the school helped them select a school for their child. One mom shared that participating in the Middle School Tour had absolutely changed her (mis)perception of the school. She had been considering enrolling her seventh grade child into a private school but was so impressed after participating in the tour that her daughter would be enrolling at that public middle school next year.

An important part of implementing the Middle School Plan involves PPS of Hawaii working with middle schools to schedule tours and to coordinate advertising to families by developing and delivering flyers to families of “feeder” elementary schools. The Hawaii Chapter collects RSVPs, attends the tours, coordinates refreshments, and assists with tour evaluations. During the discussion portion of the event, chapter members talk with families about the PPS Hawaii Chapter and the importance of the parent voice at the school, district, and state levels. This serves as an opportunity to make parents aware of their value and importance in their child’s education process as well as the potential benefits of becoming a PPS chapter member.

In addition to daytime tours, PPS Hawaii holds Middle School Transition Nights for families who may not be able to attend a daytime tour, want more information about what middle school will be like, or want to learn more about making a smooth transition from elementary to middle school. Families have a unique opportunity to interact with principals, school staff, and experts on adolescence. They can also meet other middle school families to share and discuss fears and hopes for their children’s middle school experiences. Middle school staff members also attend Transition Nights and answer questions families have about the middle school process and how it is different from elementary school. Experts in early adolescence behavior and brain changes present valuable information and support strategies parents can utilize to help their children in transitioning.

The Middle School Tours and Transition Nights have been a great success for PPS Hawaii. The Middle School Plan was developed as a result of concerns and misperceptions held by many families about middle school public education. By daring to take on the challenge of changing these misperceptions, PPS Hawaii has reached out to families and public middle schools to promote two-way communication, provided awareness of the realities and facts about public middle school education, and equipped many families with the tools and information they needed to make the best education decisions for their children.