The way our society communicates has changed, drastically! Data, that’s now over two years old, shows that 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and 81% of Americans own a smartphone. The technology available today is faster and easier to use than ever before. And now the millennials that grew up using today’s technology are the parents of children that are already entering your schools – which means their expectations of your school district’s communication are at an all-time high.
However, school districts across the country are finding themselves with similar problems: (1) Today’s classrooms contain more languages than ever before, creating a barrier when things aren’t translated into a parent’s preferred language. (2) Countless communication tools and systems have been introduced over time to meet the needs of different stakeholders, without significant consideration for how many places that families have to keep up with. (3) And with all the different communication tools, administrators have little oversight into the communication and limited data for reporting.
Many K-12 families struggle to see into the school much beyond a school event or newsletter, and have struggled for decades to get an answer to the simple question “what did you do at school today?” Considering this, let’s dive into 6 things that will improve parent communication across your entire school district.
1. Establish one source for all communication
More and more school districts’ parent surveys are revealing that school-home communication is consistently a problem area. Parents are reporting that they no longer want to go here for this and there for that. Instead, they want one easy platform for all of their communication.
Why is this happening? Over time, district offices, school offices, classrooms, and school groups have all introduced different ways to communicate with families. For example, district and school offices implemented tools for sending mass notifications like auto-dialing, emailing, texting, and sending urgent alerts; mass communications like newsletters and emails; and student-specific alerts like attendance and lunch balance notifications. Meanwhile, classrooms and school groups needed their own tools so they found free third-party apps, used mass emails and texts, or created social media pages. Plus, everyone is using a different calendar, event, and group coordination tools.
While these all serve great purposes, it’s difficult to step back and look at what’s happening to families. With all these different communication channels, families – especially those with multiple kids in different grades and schools, are trying to keep up with 8 or 9 different forms of communication. When families need to check for school announcements, where should they go? Social media? The school website? Their email? A communication app? Even the best get overwhelmed and start checking out because they are also trying to stay on top of life at home.
Families just want one source for all communication. Implementing a communication platform that’s built to unify communication this way is the best and easiest solution. District-wide school communication platforms like Livingtree Engage allow you to get away from all the different tools you use to communicate. This allows your families to directly connect with their child’s teacher, and receive school-level and district-level communication in one place, without all of the overwhelming apps, cluttered inboxes, and lost emails.
2. Translate into a parent’s preferred language
Your district may contain families with dozens of different primary languages, and failing to translate messages can create a barrier between them and their child’s learning. Parents in diverse communities may be afraid to even follow up on any official notices that they don’t fully understand.
The tools that your district office, schools, and classrooms use should automatically translate messages into each parent’s preferred language to avoid confusion and keep families engaged. Optimally, you should have a communication platform that provides automatic two-way translation between families and staff. That way, a staff member can write a message in English and have it delivered in the preferred language of a parent, and vice-versa when that parent replies.
This will not only improve the effectiveness of your schools’ communication, but also the engagement among families that speak different primary languages.
3. Maintain oversight and data of all communication
When it comes to communication, school and district administrators should have two things: oversight and data. But when everyone is using something different to communicate with families, this can be hard to come by.
School and district administrators often report wanting oversight of the communication that their schools are sending. This insight can help schools continuously optimize and streamline their communication.
Administrators also know how important data is. Not only can communication data be used for reporting, but it can also help identify areas that need improvement. Platforms that offer communication data and reports for district, school, and classroom-level communication can help streamline this process while offering insight into platform usage, who has read what, and how parents are engaging with different communications.
This is yet another benefit to having one platform.
4. Eliminate registrations and signups – make it easy for families
When classrooms and school groups are using their own communication tools, in addition to all the school and district-level systems, families end up with a lot of sign-ups, group codes, and registrations – which becomes overwhelming year over year.
When district SIS systems already have parent contact information, school communication should be an effortless experience on the part of families. You can eliminate a lot of frustration by ensuring that your communication tools accept data from your district’s SIS system.
You can dramatically improve your families’ communication experience if you make sure that they are automatically connected to their child’s teacher, school, and district without having to deal with the sign-ups and registrations.
5. Provide easy and customizable communication
Want to improve communication for families? Make sure your communication tools are both easy to use and customizable for families. Instead of choosing how to send information to families, let families choose how they want to receive it!
With a communication platform like Livingtree Engage, you can let parents set their preferences as to how they receive notifications. This ensures that they are able to receive communication in whatever form is best for them, and streamlines communication between school and home.
6. Make it mobile – everything right in a parent’s pocket
In general, cell phones have become a lifeline for families who are constantly busy and on the go. It’s also a pretty safe bet today that while not all families will have devices like computers and tablets, most if not all will have a cell phone.
To reach all families, you should ensure that all your communication is accessible via mobile devices. With communication platforms like Livingtree Engage, you can provide families a single source of communication that is quite literally in their pocket. That way families get access to class updates, school notifications, and other communications right on their phones.
The expectations for modern communications that meet the needs of families is only intensifying. And while school districts want to check every box and reach families in as many ways as possible, this can actually cause problems if families are inundated with communication.
Sure, communication channels like social media have their place in public relations for serving and addressing the broader community. But at some point, more communication is not always better. Better communication is better. That’s why it’s important to consider how families are receiving communication from all of the different stakeholders in your district – at the district, school, and classroom levels.
Use a platform to improve every aspect of communication
As we’ve covered, the right communication platform can unify all communication in one place for families, and provide beneficial features like automatic translations, data and reporting, customizable preferences, and mobile access.
Schools and districts across the country are using Livingtree’s Engage platform, and have made significant improvements to the communication experience of their staff and families. Interested in learning more about Livingtree Engage and whether it’s the right platform for your school or district community?
Visit the Livingtree Engage page to learn more or request more information below:
You can also download our free guide for finding a better way to engage families: