As these examples illustrate, understanding and addressing the right issue in communication planning often makes the difference between effective and ineffective messaging and appeals.

Often, when parents, students, or the public don’t respond to invitations or show up for parent-teacher conferences, educators assume they don’t care, aren’t supportive, or don’t want to learn more about how they can support their children’s school success.

By the same token, when educators always communicate in a language parents don’t understand, host conferences during the work day, and always expect parents to come to school for meetings and events, parents might resent educators’ lack of sensitivity to their needs and assume school officials are only giving lip service to the need for more parental involvement.

As a result, the communications gap between parents and educators might widen further, leaving both parties frustrated.

As a first step to finding common ground, educators and parents need to set their assumptions aside and begin listening to each other—either formally, through online (and bilingual) surveys, public opinion polls, focus groups, and other forms of research, or informally, through social media dialogue sessions or face-to-face interactions.

Listening well will help educators build mutually beneficial relationships with parents—relationships that ultimately will result in more and better parental involvement in their children’s education.

Award-winning eSchool News columnist Nora Carr is the chief of staff for North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools.