How can schools improve communication with parents? Here are four actions you can — and should — take.
Parents play a critical role in their children’s education, with research showing that the more involved parents are, the better their children perform at school. Of course, that fact comes as little surprise to anyone who’s spent even a little bit of time working in a school.
To increase parental involvement in the education process (and thus improve student outcomes), it’s important for schools to build strong relationships with families. And that starts with good communication.
Not only does effective communication make specific processes (like enrollment and registration) easier for families but it also builds trust and advocacy — something that becomes critical when problems arise or policy changes arise.
But both parents and schools are pressed for time, making it challenging to keep the lines of communication open during the year.
This blog discusses a few ways you can foster better communication with your families and build strong community relationships.
1. Clarify Expectations for Family and Student Involvement
Outreach is a key part of building a strong foundation for communication between the family and your school. Here are some outreach tips:
- If you are planning on hosting an open house before the start of the new school year, consider offering a special welcome packet to parents and guardians. This packet may include a personal greeting and shares key information they need on what to expect during the coming year and how to get support should they need it.
- Share your expectations of what success looks like at your school and how you expect parents and students to be involved in the education process.
- Make use of technology where you can. Distribute downloadable materials and updates online (such as via email, a newsletter, or even your social media) so you can make the most of your offline, in-person events. Online, the parent experience will often begin with the school discovery, application, and enrollment/registration processes. Offline, you can engage parents through workshops during enrollment season.
- Invite active, involved parents to speak about their experiences with your school. Empowering parents and families to share their knowledge at these events not only gives them a great opportunity to stay engaged with your school but also demonstrates to new parents that you are really walking the walk when it comes to welcoming family involvement.
2. Establish Open Lines of Communication
Make it clear from your first engagement with families exactly how they can be in touch with the administration to get support and answers for any questions or issues they may have.
You can offer this through a variety of channels:
- Text message
- Family communication platform
- A school–parent portal
- Weekly office hours
- A website bulletin board
- An official school Facebook community for your parents (just be sure you have a school official who can moderate posts, answer questions, and verify group members)
Share this information again at regular intervals throughout the year — not just during enrollment. Amid all the business of the school year, parents will very likely forget the many convenient ways they can get in touch with you.
Teacher visits and regular weekly or monthly updates, as well as monthly parent/guardian coffee hours, are a great way to keep strong communication going throughout the year, particularly if you make it a point to regularly solicit feedback and questions from parents.
This becomes even more important when students are transitioning between schools (from elementary to middle school, for example) and expectations on both parent involvement and student performance are likely to change.
It also is especially necessary when something of potential concern to parents, like a proposed policy change, may soon be under consideration.
Also, consider using technology — such as a mobile app — to help families keep up with school updates.
According to a survey from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), parents prefer to receive updates and regular communications via electronic methods, such as email, newsletters, district websites, and parent portals, rather than by phone or postal mail.
As schools move toward paperless systems, they can offer convenient mobile access to school and student registration information as well as online payment forms for field trips, classes, and other important school events.
Likewise, messages (event reminders, announcements, fundraising initiatives, etc.) can be sent to parents via text, email, or automated calls. This makes it easier for schools to contact parents more often and help schools meet parents where they are most comfortable communicating.
Gone are the days of depending on the good ol’ Student Backpack Messaging System (let’s call it the SBMS) for getting critical and time-sensitive messages to parents.
3. Give Families Resources to Strengthen Learning at Home
Parents are always looking for ways to support their children’s learning at home, and your school can play a valuable role in supporting at-home learning.
A weekly newsletter featuring regular updates as well as photos and pictures of classes is a great way to engage families. In it, you can also give families resources on how to develop their children’s study skills or hone certain emerging talents they may have in specific subject areas.
You can learn more about free tools available for creating your school newsletter in our previous article, Free Tools for Your School’s Marketing and Communications.
For example, there are plenty of terrific educational resources available online and via mobile apps. You can share curated lists of some of the best ones with your families.
Consider linking parents with resources in the community that directly connect to student learning, such as summer programs and other special educational opportunities.
In addition to a newsletter, you can also share news and resources on Facebook. Families can easily follow what’s going on with your school, and they can share updates with their friends and relatives too.
Ultimately, however you choose to share updates, make sure families know your purpose is to be of service to them and to support their goals in ensuring their children receive a high-quality education.
4. Engage and Empower Families
Finally, consider ways in which your parents and families can play an even more active role at your school, taking them from a stage of involvement to engagement, in which they are fully invested as stakeholders in the school and proud to help it succeed.
This could include serving on an advisory committee, participating in governing bodies that set educational policy, and supporting the school’s student recruitment efforts.
Another option would be to conduct a volunteer survey, inviting parents to share their unique talents and skills at the school in a variety of ways.
Or, if parents don’t have time to go to school meetings in person, perhaps they can remotely stay engaged through technology by contributing their talents to the school newsletter or other digital publications.
By fostering good communication and close family involvement, schools can improve educational outcomes and create strong, long-lasting relationships with the families they serve. Inviting parental empowerment allows parents to share their feedback, insight, and expertise with schools.
A platform like SchoolMint Connect can facilitate much of your communication with prospective and current parents.
From managing event attendance to automating follow-up emails, SchoolMint Connect can ease some of your most tedious tasks and free up your time to focus on what really matters: creating a positive educational experience for everyone.
Interested in learning more about SchoolMint Connect and how it can help you communicate with families?
Watch the video below to learn more about this family engagement platform, or click here to see it in action for yourself!
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