Why K-12 School Districts, Parents and Teachers Need a Better Way to Engage
Research shows what most people already believe as a matter of common sense: parental involvement is an essential component of a successful education. Parents need to be actively engaged in their children’s education during the critical K-12 years, because they will always be the first and most important educators in their children’s lives.
Unfortunately, it is difficult for parents to keep up with all of their kids’ daily lessons and life experiences at school. Every parent knows how hard it is to get an answer to the simple question “what did you do at school today?”
There are also very limited opportunities for parents to actually see into the school. While there might be an occasional open house or school newsletter, beyond that parents and teachers will often only communicate if there is a disciplinary problem. With today’s technology, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Parents want more access and information on a day-to-day basis. They want to know what’s going on in the classroom and around the school, and generally stay involved in their kids’ education.
This white paper examines best practices for K-12 school districts to successfully implement an integrated communications platform that provides the convenience and accessibility of social media—while safeguarding student privacy and meeting the diverse needs of parents and teachers throughout the district.
How Social Media Fails Parents and School Districts
Teachers and school administrators have increasingly embraced social media as a way to better connect with parents and families. However, the explosion of different apps, profiles, pages, and websites can ironically end up fracturing the K-12 community, rather than bringing it together.
For schools to continually inform, involve, and engage parents, there need to be open lines of communication among teachers, parents and administrators. But if one teacher is on Instagram, and the next is on Facebook, and the school administration uses Twitter, it can be harder than ever for parents to keep up with the latest news.
Important messages can easily be lost amid all of the photos and status updates. Disparate apps and social networks make it especially hard for parents to find out what they really want to know: how their child is doing.
Parents should have one place to look for everything they need to know about their children’s education, not five places to look for bits and pieces of information. That’s why K-12 school districts need a unified communications solution that gives parents the equivalent of a front-row seat or a window into the school.
Finding the right platform to facilitate this level engagement can be challenging because there are so many different factors to consider. Schools must meet the needs of diverse communities while complying with privacy regulations at the local, state, and federal levels. For many schools, it’s become increasingly clear that disparate social media initiatives can’t do the job effectively.
When we talk to school districts about the challenges they face in driving greater engagement with parents, some common themes emerge, such as:
- Ad-hoc communication methods with no central hub for shared information
- Lack of defined policies for using social media to engage parents
- Language barriers between schools and families
The right engagement platform can eliminate these obstacles so that even hard-working parents who don’t have the chance to visit the school and meet the teachers can still get a first-hand view of what’s happening in their child’s classroom.
4 Capabilities Your K-12 Engagement Platform Must Have
Secure Two-Way Communication
Engaging parents isn’t just about communicating information to them. By definition, being an engaged parent requires the ability to participate in the school community, whether it’s in person or online.
Parents need to be able to ask questions, make comments, or offer their support for activities at the school. They also need a secure, legitimate place for this communication to take place—not a teacher’s personal Facebook profile or an informal “class” page that’s publicly accessible.
Today’s K-12 classrooms contain more nationalities, ethnicities, and languages than ever before. This poses a major challenge or school districts seeking to improve communication with parents. Your district may contain families with dozens of different primary languages, and failing to translate messages can disrupt parental engagement.
With so much tension around immigration and citizenship issues, parents in diverse communities may be afraid to even follow up on any official notices that they don’t fully understand. Your district’s parental engagement platform should automatically translate messages into each parent’s preferred language to avoid confusion and keep families engaged.
Easy Mobile Access
If you want to reach the parents in your district, there’s one place you can always find them: on the phone. Mobile devices are so pervasive today that they’ve quickly become the best means of communication for most families.
Desktop computers and home phones are rapidly disappearing. To reach the people in your community, especially when something is time sensitive, you need to make information and messages easily accessible via common mobile devices.
Everything in One Place
Parents should never miss a message from their child’s school because they didn’t check Twitter for a few days. Nor do parents want to have to wait to receive a formal letter for every school announcement.
Everything should be thoughtfully organized in one place so parents can quickly catch up on day-to-day updates, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities, and anything else that’s relevant to their children.