- School-home communication is critical for a healthy school community, but too often, communication efforts miss the mark
- Choosing the right system, protecting data, and including all parent groups are essential steps for success
- See related article: Here’s why we put all of our district communications on one platform
Implementing a unified communication solution focused on family engagement provides school districts with multiple benefits. An intuitive, easy-to-use program can standardize communication between school and home, for example, and increase overall family engagement.
Selecting the right K-12 communications platform that supports the needs of everyone and is purpose-built to engage families can save everyone time, increase technology adoption, save money, and diminish or eliminate any confusion.
It also helps districts avoid or address these top five school-home communication challenges:
1. Too many systems create too many messages and mass confusion. Parents and guardians are often overwhelmed by the volume of inbound messages and variety of messaging channels. As a result, they don’t know whether the school newsletter went into the spam folder, where the field trip permission slip is or how to add money to lunch accounts. In our district, we found that teachers and schools were using more than a dozen different platforms for family communication. Even the most engaged families shared that it was difficult to keep up with so much information in so many places.
2. Some families are left out of the conversation. Family contactability is foundational to ensure equitable communications. It’s also critical for urgent communications and an important part of building a healthy school culture and community. A modern, unified school-home communications platform provides the tools needed to consistently engage and maintain lines of communication with at least one parent/guardian per family and ensure equity of access for students. In our district, ParentSquare’s contactability report helps each school maintain accurate and complete records so families don’t miss information.
3. Student data must be protected. When it comes to data privacy, communications containing student-specific information should only reach authorized family and guardians. All communications should be FERPA and COPPA compliant, and many states, such as New York and Texas, have additional privacy regulations to protect student and teacher personally identifiable information (PII). For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that went into effect in 2020 also regulates student data privacy because it includes all education companies doing business with school districts.
4. Your SIS likely isn’t designed for communication. In most districts, parent or guardian contact information is stored in the student information system (SIS). However, these systems were not designed with communication with families as a primary function. While some SIS systems have the ability to send generic mass messages, they lack the nuances of a multi-featured platform designed for true engagement, especially two-way communication.
5. Measuring engagement leads to improvement. Our communication platform’s data dashboard is a valuable tool for measuring which families are engaging with their teachers and schools. Our administrators work with teachers who may be sending too much or too little communication, and we’ve provided professional learning to our teachers to improve their messaging to families. We also found surveys and forms provide a place for parent feedback with additional actionable data.
Know where to go
Rather than relying on different channels for announcements, texts and phone calls, a unified school-home communications platform lets families choose how frequently they want to be contacted, opt in or out of communications, and have a direct channel back to the school with questions or concerns.
An integrated communications platform also offers updated privacy protections while providing schools with administrative oversight and reporting. Finally, these platforms make it much easier for families to “know where to go” when they need trusted information from the district, school and/or classroom.
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