Effective Parent Communication
Schools are communities. And for communities to function with purpose, be nurturing, and foster innovation, effective communication needs to be at the center. What’s more, communication specifically with parents needs to be a priority. In fact, a 2020 survey conducted by Pew Research produced this finding regarding family engagement: “Information from the school was communicated between weekly and monthly (with parents) but ideal communication would be more frequent and closer to every week.”
Understanding how schools you work with, or are seeking to partner with, communicate with parents will be essential as you develop those relationships. Frequency, as noted by the 2020 research linked above, is clearly one important aspect. But even if the “ideal” weekly communication was met, there is more to a school’s communication plan that you should consider. For example, asking schools about the types of media they to communicate is important. Likewise, knowing the number of languages messages are translated to is equally valuable. This information must be analyzed alongside demographic data of the school’s families. Simply put, a school may post-school updates on Twitter in ten different languages, but that is only helpful if families are engaged with social media and if the ten languages are common in their community.
Another area of importance concerning effective communication involves parent access to school and district leaders. Assisting schools in the development or refinement of highlights the fact that communication is best when it is a two-way flow between parties. The value of reciprocal access was evident during COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Education published guidance that emphasized plans that “Prioritize ongoing student and family engagement throughout any periods when students are temporarily unable to attend school in-person due to COVID-19 cases to ensure a personal touch point between the school and families each day.” Sustaining these plans or developing contingencies for other emergencies are areas where support is needed.
Lastly, schools’ communication concerning student progress and learning is a complex yet necessary service provided to parents. A dynamic grade book platform or system is the usual method schools opt to go with. Before a platform is adopted, however, communities will need support determining what capabilities (data reporting, access, navigation, etc.) they consider necessary. One area of digital grade book communication not often considered by schools is the tone and purpose of the messaging parents receive. If a culture of negative or punitive communication exists, there will be a need to alter this approach. Edutopia’s 2021 article on the power of communication in the education profession is found in the benefits of parent involvement. The article notes “Parental involvement can lead to academic gains for students: higher grades and test scores, improved social skills and time on task, better attendance and participation, and decreased behavioral problems in the
classroom.” Emphasizing these benefits with schools, and how your services or products will make them part of their culture, taps into strategic plans articulated by the vast majority of schools in the U.S. Effective parental communication is essential for building positive and collaborative relationships between schools and families. To that end, having the right tools and protocols to nurture that relationship is something schools need now and in the future. Being there to help guide schools on their journey toward effective communication positions you as a dynamic and invaluable partner.
Written by: Craig Perrier
Educational Thought Leader and Practitioner
Craig is the High School Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, VA. He also is an online adjunct professor of education for Framingham State University and the teacher certification program, Educate VA. Previously, he taught at American Schools in Brazil for six years and for six years in public schools in Massachusetts.
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