How using technology can keep parents in the loop

Smart ways 2 districts are tackling their K-12 parent communication challenges, and how IT can help

parents-technologySix years ago most of Maine Township High School District 207’s parent communication efforts were one-way in nature.

According to Hank Thiele, assistant superintendent of technology and learning, parent newsletters, email blasts, and website announcement were the communication mainstays for the 7,000-student district in Park Ridge, Ill.

But in the past few years, Thiele’s department began to integrate more interactive, technology-based options into the mix—one that would keep parents up-to-date on what their kids were up to, and give them a chance to respond. “We really want to foster two-way communication with our families,” Thiele says.

At the core of Maine Township High Schools’ parental engagement approach is an Aspen student information system (SIS) populated with information like student tardies, absences, grades, and report cards. If, for example, a student’s grade falls below a certain pre-determined threshold, parents are alerted to the issue and asked to contact their pupil’s teacher. “We kick messages out to families through the SIS,” says Thiele, “and encourage them to contact us about inaccuracies.”

The district has also integrated a SchoolMessenger auto-dialer with its SIS—a move that Thiele says resulted in even more real-time communication with families. The system was then paired with numerous Google for Education tools that teachers use to send email and other types of messaging out to parents. “The data integration piece generates the messages that are then sent out to the families,” says Thiele, “making the messaging even more personalized and invoking responses on the families’ parts.”

(Next page: How simplifying systems makes a big difference)

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