There’s no doubt that school leaders want to delight their parents. You want your parents to know that your school provides a quality education for their children that creates a foundation for their future success. Unfortunately, working with parents effectively isn’t always easy.
Parents, understandably, expect a high return on investment for their tuition dollars. For families, private school tuition can be the first or second biggest expense for their household, right along with their mortgage. They want to ensure their children receive the full benefit of their expenditure—and this passion can sometimes cause friction between school leaders and their parent body.
Here are some elements to keep in mind when communicating with your school’s parents. Whether you work in enrollment management, development, or marketing communications, these tactics, when implemented at a holistic, school level, can help you do your job better because parents are rallied behind your school and its mission.
Use these do’s and don’ts to ensure your parent communications remain fruitful for all groups involved.
Parent Communication Do’s and Don’ts
Don't think that online gradebooks replace progress reports or spontaneous feedback on a child’s performance.
Do offer updates. It’s great that online grading has made it easier for parents to self-service when it comes to their children’s grades. But, because parents need to find that information, sometimes their communication needs aren’t fully met. Parents don’t want to work too hard to get to key information, so make sure to provide updates throughout the school yea; Don’t just rely on online grading.
Don't wait until the end of the grading period to offer feedback on students.
Do provide ongoing updates. Parents need a steady diet of their child’s incremental progress. They want to hear what’s happening in the classroom regularly, not just at the end of a grading period or when something has gone wrong.
Don’t believe that students and parents know exactly how to function within your unique school setting.
Do help students establish and maintain positive and healthy peer relationships within your school community and help parents understand how they can best support their children.
Don’t wait for parents to ask for information on their child’s current education state or their future.
Don’t leave the details about a student progress to a parent’s imagination.
Do produce a steady supply of photos, video clips, and short messages that illustrate their child thriving at your school.
Success Story: The Westfield School Creates a Positive Parent Narrative
The Westfield School was facing slowly declining enrollment—so they turned to ISM for support.
ISM found that parent communication would be a key driver for change. Head of School, William Carroll, said, “We found that sharing positive stories gives us much more credibility in our relationships with students’ families. Parents know that we see the potential in their children. So, if there is an issue, they understand that it comes from a place of caring about what’s best for them. It’s been a game-changer in how parents see the school and the experience we provide for their children.”
The result? After implementing new strategies, including a parent communication plan, The Westfield School experienced a 10% enrollment growth after a 10-year decline.
Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Private School News Vol. 17 No. 5 School Spotlight: The Westfield School Experiences 10% Enrollment Growth After a 10-Year Decline
The Source for Advancement Vol. 16 No. 3 The Three C’s of Parent Communication
The Source for Advancement Vol. 15 No. 8 The Importance of Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships
Additional ISM resources for members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 2 Consolidate and Coordinate Your Parent Communications
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