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Using Texts to Reinforce Positive Student Behavior

2 min read
Sep 16, 2017 9:37:38 AM

Recent studies conclude that real-time behavior updates sent to parents improves student achievement.

In a recent article, one high school English teacher shared how debilitating it can feel when parents are unresponsive or lack initiative when it comes to their child’s education:

Teachers may have certain expectations for individual students, and parents may have another. I expect my students to do their best and meet my high standards, but sometimes their parents don’t care (or so it seems) if their child even turns in a homework assignment. I completely understand that many parents are pushed to the limits and are trying their best, but attitudes like this are frustrating for a teacher, especially when a student has potential but appears unmotivated. It would be easy for a teacher to dismiss that student and let them slip through the cracks.

While not all parents treat their student’s performance in such a careless way, this is a widespread problem for teachers.

Fortunately, recent developments have given hope that this problem can be solved, or at least improved, with the use of real-time notifications.

Real-Time Student Updates

Teachers have few reliable channels of communication with parents, and these traditional channels, like the report card, come to parents too late. Often sent out quarterly, by the time it arrives, parents can do little to change anything.

And students are not a reliable source of information for their parents. Many times, students will color the truth to lessen the consequences they might face. Or just as likely, they’ll forget to say anything at all.

But technology that is universally accessible to parents — like text messages — can send timely, reliable updates on student progress.

The results of recent studies on the effects of texting parents about poor behavior or academic performance are promising.

The research, from Peter Bergman and Eric W. Chan of Teachers College, Columbia University found that:

“In a field experiment across 22 middle and high schools, we [sent] automated text-message alerts to parents about their child’s missed assignments, grades and class absences. The intervention reduces course failures by 39% and increases class attendance by 17%.”

The academic results of the intervention were just as positive: “The students’ GPAs improved by a quarter of a point on a four-point scale. And students were more likely to stay in school.”

Of course, no teacher has the time to hand craft each message to each parent, but with an app like SchoolMint Hero, parents can receive notifications about their student’s behavior as it happens.

If negative updates have proven to increase student performance, what happens when parents are notified about the good things their child does?

Schools that are adopting positive behavior reinforcement programs report consistent results in reducing negative behavior.

Schools like Redland Middle School have seen favorable results from their efforts to report and commend positive behaviors:

…the National Education Association (NEA) reported that before PBIS, Redland was referring over 1,200 students to the principals office each year.

But by focusing on “constructive interventions as an alternative to punitive discipline,” Redland Middle School has seen referrals drop to under 30 — in just one school year.

It seems the data leads to a simple conclusion: Parental notifications work to improve student achievement.

And if these notifications update parents on the good things their student is doing — and not just the bad — they will serve to reinforce that positive behavior.

For additional reading, check out How Family-Teacher Communication Can Improve Student Outcomes.

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