A new program helped a district keep its parents in the loop.

A new program helped a district keep its parents in the loop.

As unusual as it may sound, I used a new technology to attract teachers’ interest when our district approached implementation, rather than face pushback when we implemented the new technology, and they quickly took the bait.

When our district, Bossier Parish in Louisiana, decided to implement a new online program, I began eMailing staff daily about an individual feature included within the program. I made the eMails simple, such as, “Wouldn’t it be great to put an assignment online and have it automatically integrated into your grade book and posted online on student profile pages?” A second eMail would tease, “Wouldn’t it be great for parents to get instant access to student grades without you ever making a phone call or setting up a meeting?”

As you can imagine, our teachers were intrigued. I also placed small clues in the eMails. For instance, instead of signing the eMails with my normal signature, I would place the ‘loop’ symbol at the bottom of the eMail. For more than two weeks teachers were begging me to tell them what it was all about.

When it came time for the new product implementation, teachers knew it was going to be something positive. I already knew they liked the idea and wouldn’t really fight the new technology, because they said how much they wanted to have the tools I mentioned in my eMails. Once we had teacher buy-in, we at the district knew the overhaul would be positive and that the technology would drastically change the way things were done.

When Bossier Parish Schools needed an updated web site system that allowed us to communicate with parents and manage data across programs, we turned to School Loop for help. School Loop’s programs help school districts enhance communication between school administration, teachers, students, and parents. With more than 20,000 students to ‘track’ in the district, it can be extremely difficult to ensure that all parents are kept informed and involved with their children’s learning, especially on a daily basis. Yet parental involvement has been proven to be a strong factor in student achievement.

What began as merely a search for an improved way to host and update our web site for better communication to students and parents quickly grew into implementing a site that included data management of grades, intervention capabilities, and daily notifications to parents or guardians. We upgraded our district and school web sites to School Loop Plus when we learned that the system offered all that we wanted, plus it could be connected to our student information system (SIS) for more seamless data management.

Every morning the School Loop program and our SIS talk to one another and update changes to student information, so each day teachers have fresh, current data. These changes could include parent contact information, changes in teachers, or home contact information. The School Loop Plus Gradebook feature allows teachers to manage all their students’ grades online and easily transfer them from or into our SIS. These updates happen immediately.

In addition to this ability to transfer data in and out of our SIS, School Loop Plus allows Bossier Parish Schools teachers to effortlessly and automatically send parents daily personalized eMails about homework assignments, test schedules, grades, and general school news. Some might think this allows parents to constantly nag for data, but this has not been the case for Bossier.

Some parents are less needy because they know the information will come to them on a daily basis. They expect the data and can find it without ever needing to make contact with the teacher. To acclimate parents to the new system, we hosted small sessions during the schools’ summer open houses so parents could register and learn more about the School Loop features. Many parents say that School Loop has lowered their need to ask teachers for feedback on their student(s).

Administrators, educators, and parents use the system’s Loop Mail to communicate about all sorts of information, from a simple fund raiser to daily test grades.  With the ReachOut Report, schools are able to save paper and ink by sending progress reports only to parents who don’t have eMail access.

This data management system has also been helpful for the middle-of-the-road students. As administrators and teachers, we often we find ourselves overlooking the students that do well or improve only slightly. Yet with School Loop, parents and teachers can see even small improvements and focus on those positives with students.