Meaningful, consistent communication between schools and parents is essential to students’ success.
Schools which promote a high rate of parent involvement report better test results, and smaller achievement gaps between groups of students. While all schools aim to improve communication between stakeholders, many lack the time and resources to modernize their processes.
Bridge the gap
So, the school-home communication gap is a real thing.
Many schools – especially underfunded public schools in the past – did not have the means to communicate effectively with parents, students, suppliers, community leaders etc.
Finding staff to manage multiple channels – SMS, email, social media apps – and the mammoth task of updating contact lists are some of the biggest current challenges. Reaching parents who speak English as a second language is another hurdle, because many platforms offer limited translation support.
6 Communication Best Practices
There’s good news however, new technology combined with several communication “best practices” will help your school to deliver more effective, engaging, and targeted notifications. This is a pressing need because a clear communications roadmap is vital in the current COVID-19 environment and here are six steps to consider.
1. Invite parents to opt-in
Over-communication is one of the biggest mistakes made by schools today. Many send emails, or notifications, to the entire school when – in reality – the email is relevant to select grades or groups only. Warning – the more unimportant messages that you send, the more likely they’ll be ignored by parents – even important ones.
Avoid information overload by creating groups within your notification system. Go beyond segmenting recipients by students’ grade to create targeted extracurricular activities to parent groups. Then, give parents the opportunity to opt into each group that is relevant to them. This gives them a greater sense of control over what type of content they receive, which ultimately leads to increased engagement.
2. Communicate more frequently … but keep It brief
Just as offices have gone paperless, so should your school. And replacing the traditional quarterly newsletter to parents is a good first step. Smartphones or devices are where people like to receive their news today – preferably in real time, bite-sized updates.
There are many advantages to keeping notifications short and sweet:
- Administrators, teachers and other stakeholders can ensure that important information doesn’t get lost amidst other updates.
- Moreover, it almost guarantees that parents will read each message as they come in, process them, and act on them if needed. For example, instead of hiding information about the upcoming science fair in a pages-long packet, teachers can send out weekly reminders leading up to the event. These will prompt already-busy parents to buy the necessary materials and encourage their children to get started on projects earlier.
3. Personalize communications
Personalized messages increase the likelihood that they’ll be read – they also strengthen bonds between parents and schools. There are several ways schools can tailor communications for diverse audiences including:
- Shared Accountability: School administrators should encourage/invite teachers and staff members to actively manage relevant communication efforts. By providing platforms (and guidelines) to diverse staff, schools can ensure parents have regular contact with the individuals who are most involved in their children’s lives.
- Relationship Building: As well as encouraging teachers, specialists, etc. to send individual updates, schools should also invite parents to share information about their students, such as their strengths and weaknesses, home environments, situations that may affect classroom behavior, and other pertinent information.
- Smaller Groups: Create networks within your parent network by requiring staff to communicate in smaller groups. For example, parents of 11th grade AP English should have their own group in which to communicate with both the teacher and each other.
- Customized Languages: Your school will always have one or several parents for whom English is not their first language. Make your communications all-inclusive by using a tool that automatically translates content to the language set on a recipient’s device.
4. Make information actionable
Updates are nice but avoid information overload. To keep open rates high, administrators should encourage staff to send updates with purpose. While a friendly, “Jimmy got an A+ today!” is nice, communications should include opportunities for parents to support their children in upcoming activities, assignments, or events. By setting the precedent that most communications require action, parents are unlikely to let any slip through the cracks.
5. Make real-time communications possible
Situations requiring immediate responses – when a teacher needs to get a hold of a parent regarding a child’s behavior in class, or when a parent reaches out with a homework question – come up often. In these cases, stakeholders need a way to communicate that guarantees a swift reply. While text or a phone call may get the job done, it goes against the sixth and final suggestion.
6. Streamline communications with a single platform
A communications audit is an important first step for schools who want to improve outreach – an audit to see how parents are currently receiving updates – Text? Email? Phone? Paper? Social media apps?
If it is some, or all of the above, this is worse than over-communicating. Parents will become confused about how they’re supposed to expect updates and how they should reply. Confusion can lead to frustration, which may ultimately lead to disengagement.
Ideally, you and your team will identify a single platform through which all stakeholders can communicate. This platform should make it easy for users to put the above tips to good use:
- Invite parents to opt in
- Communicate frequently but in short bursts
- Personalize communications
- Send actionable information
- Communicate in real time
NotifyMe is a communication platform that “ticks all of these functionality boxes.”
Designed with content creators in mind, it is engagement-friendly, allowing users to opt in to notifications from certain organizations and to view them in one place.
Creators can also use whatever platform they desire to create content. Once they push it out through NotifyMe, users receive a notification and a deeplink that enables them to access content on its native platform. The deeplink feature allows administrators, teachers, coaches, and others to continue to communicate via the platform of their choice without overwhelming parents.
NotifyMe offers a better way for schools to communicate with all stakeholders – give it a try – sign up for a free trial now.