Meaningful, two-way communication between parents and their child’s district, school, and teachers is invaluable—but it’s also a challenge. Modern advancements in technology are causing a shift in communication preferences, and school administrators are left trying to figure out the best way to reach parents and, ultimately, bridge the parent-school communication gap.
In this article, we’ll share tips for improving parent-school communication across the district, but first, let’s talk about why it’s so important, to begin with.
The Importance of Parent-School Communication
School administrators have long realized the importance of engaged, well-informed parents. Positive communication between parents and schools has been shown to help improve academic performance. When parents and educators work together for the benefit of the student, the student earns higher grades, completes more homework, shows increased participation in class, and has fewer absences.
Parent-school communication also ensures parents are kept up to date with accurate, relevant information regarding the school and their child’s academic performance. Two-way communication helps boost family engagement, essentially turning parents into learners. In addition to engaging parents, studies have shown that positive parent-school relationships help improve the community’s perception of the school.
Bridging the Parent-School Communication Gap
Despite the obvious benefits to parent-school communication, many school districts struggle to bridge the gap between the home and the classroom for a variety of reasons. The good news is that with a solid understanding of what parents want and expect—as well as a strategy in place to deliver on those expectations—districts can bridge the parent-school communication gap.
1. Understand parent preferences and expectations
The first step to bridging the communication gap is to gain an understanding of parent preferences and expectations. There are some important questions to answer before developing a detailed plan, such as:
How often do parents want to hear from school? Most prefer frequent communication, but the timeliness of messages is important. Work on developing a messaging cadence for parent-school communication, keep in mind that consistency and frequency are key. Provide regular, timely updates and be consistent so parents know they can expect to hear from you. Also, consider that multiple departments might be reaching out to parents regarding everything from sports and activities to nutrition services. Coordinate message timing across departments to consolidate relevant communications.
What information do they want to know? Take the guesswork out of figuring out what information parents want to know by eliciting feedback from them through surveys and in-person meetings.
Some of the most common topics parents want to hear about include:
- Ways they can support learning at home
- Notice of a violent incident or school lockdown
- Information about student achievements
- Action items or contact information for student services
- Updates to school policies and programs
- Invitations to upcoming school events
Which communication methods do they prefer? In addition to the type of information shared and frequency, the communication method also matters. In general, parents today strongly prefer mobile-friendly communication options such as emails and text messages, as opposed to somewhat outdated methods like phone calls and paper letters. In a world where 70 percent of Americans trust their mobile phones to complete extremely private transactions such as banking, it’s not surprising that parents both want and need a convenient way of completing payment transactions required by the school or district.
2. Develop a parent-school communication strategy
Understanding modern parent and family expectations, enables the development of a parent-school communication strategy that’s sure to bridge the gap and engage families in your school district. Take a proactive approach by building and executing a communication strategy that ensures efforts are both consistent and relevant. This strategy should include where, when, and how to communicate with parents.
Teachers and administrators can also be transparent by sharing communication goals with parents. This provides an opportunity to tell them what they can expect, discuss contact methods, and set expectations about messages they’ll receive. This will also help hold everyone accountable, as you’ll likely feel more compelled to carry out your communication strategy after sharing it with the parents of the students in the district.
3. Empower parents by involving them in decisions
Just having a communication strategy in place isn’t enough. One-way communication is limited, and although it can provide parents with helpful updates, they’re not likely to feel engaged or involved. To ensure communication is a two-way street, ask parents for input on key decisions.
Involving them in important decision-making, can help build a stronger partnership between the school and parents. Share parent feedback to encourage open discussion and invite them to join the dialogue on major issues. Then keep them informed as policies or processes change.
4. Embrace technology-based communication
Teachers are responsible for managing a classroom full of students and an abundance of administrative tasks. However, there are many digital tools available that can ease that workload and improve parent-school communication in the process. In addition to email, below are different opportunities to embrace technology-based communication options.
- eNewsletters: Consider sending a weekly newsletter, as parents strongly prefer email communication.
- Social media: Social platforms are a great place to reach parents where they’re already active and engaged.
- School blog: This is a modern method to deliver consistent updates and share relevant content with parents.
- Parent portal: This enables real-time messaging and notifications, offering parents a centralized location to check for important tasks, updates and announcements. (Learn more about building a service and task discovery portal with, OneCampus.)
Bridging the parent-school communication gap may not be easy, but the results will be worth it. With the right tools to help manage parent-school communication, boosting overall parent engagement overall is simple.
ActivityRight is a mobile-friendly, SIS and GL integrated, parent engagement platform that helps districts manage the challenges associated with digital communications, including security and data management. Leverage your existing roster data to create automated reminders, notifications, and with ActivityRight's real-time messaging capabilities, you can help keep parents in the loop—not to mention reduce the number of emails, calls, and office visits. And because the platform is mobile-friendly, parents can receive timely updates directly on their phones—anytime, anywhere.
Achieving meaningful, parent-school communication can be challenging—but there are many benefits to engaging parents and communicating with them on their own terms. Check out our guide, The 3 Pillars of Parent Engagement, to learn more.