May 3, 2020
Parents’ perceptions of your school’s offerings remain one of the most important aspects that influence their enrollment and re-enrollment decisions. Now, perhaps more than ever, parents are experiencing—firsthand—how your school operates each and every day.
In most normal circumstances, children go to school and parents don’t see classroom activities taking place. But now, students and parents are spending most of their time together. Parents see their children’s lessons, their interactions with teachers, and the quality of the assignments.
Parents are probably spending time, consciously or not, examining what they see, and building an internal narrative about your academic and enrichment programs. Therefore, it’s never been more important for your school to take charge of that narrative. You must communicate effectively to continually validate your school’s value to families.
So, where do you start?
What Parents Want From Their Children’s School
ISM research has repeatedly revealed four main characteristics parents and students look for when it comes to remaining at a school. These findings are based on anecdotal evidence from our consulting team, as well as results drawn from our national parent surveys and surveys conducted for individual schools.
- Safety. Parents want their children to attend a school where they are physically and psychologically free from harm.
- Quality academic programs. Schools should have excellent, mission-appropriate offerings that prepare students for the next level.
- Character development. Parents choose a school that gives their children the opportunity to develop a strong sense of values and morals.
- A caring atmosphere. The school must know the child on a personal level and recognize each student's contributions.
Even as your school conducts distance learning, it’s still possible to ensure your messaging touches on these four vital needs.
Tune in to live webinars every week to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.
Communicate frequently about what you’re doing to ensure physical and emotional safety. Walk parents through changes and updates concerning academic programs and other offerings. Ensure every family knows that you care about their child and how you’re providing the best educational experience possible.
How Should You Communicate With Parents?
A Speak Up Research Project survey from 2017 examined the preferences of 30,000 parents of K–12 students concerning school communications. It found:
- Over one-third of parents cited word-of-mouth as the primary way they receive information about what’s going on at their child’s school. Don’t allow this to happen, as word-of-mouth information most often does NOT present a complete picture of your school.
- Parents chose email as their preferred method of receiving school updates, followed by text messages.
- While 69% of parents surveyed say they always or often use Facebook, only 16% stated that it’s an effective tool for receiving information about their child’s school. Meanwhile, 39% of principals and 78% of public-school district communication officers reported that they think Facebook is an effective tool for sharing information with parents.
When it comes to communication from their child’s school, parents prefer:
- information that is easy for them to access;
- communication that is "pushed" to them, so they don’t have to search for it;
- personalized communications—no standardized or blanket messages that aren't relevant to their needs;
- timely content;
- information that is easy to read quickly and understand; and
- high-impact information that makes it easy to take action.
We often recommend schools work with their teachers to help craft approaches that ensure they have the capacity to send these individualized communications. Parents appreciate hearing directly from the teacher about their child’s progress. These messages will confirm that you care deeply about your students.
It’s more important than ever to communicate effectively with parents. Consider these tips to ensure that, despite your distance, your community is remaining as close as ever.
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