Tips for schools on how to utilize technology to garner better parent engagement.
It’s been well established that the more parents are involved in the education process, the better the chances of success are for their children. This principle is not limited to academic results—student behavior also improves when parents get involved.
To take advantage of this reality, administrators and educators strive to maintain a healthy level of communication between the school and the home. As parents engage with schools regarding their child’s behavior, school culture improves, and consequently, so does student achievement.
It goes without saying that it takes a fair amount of the teacher’s time to keep parents informed of their child’s behavior at school. Using modern communication technologies, you can alleviate that time burden.
Recent studies are showing the benefits of using technology to engage with parents.
A working paper from Harvard University showed that text messaging centered on educational goals between parents and teachers boosted student academic outcomes. A study published in the National Communication Association Journal showed that students got more homework done when parents and teachers sent emails to each other. And yet another study from Harvard found a direct correlation between student engagement and “daily phone calls and written text messages from teachers.”
Even though these studies demonstrate that text, email, and calls are helpful, they’re not a silver bullet.
According to an Education Weekly article, there’s still significant challenges for schools to boost parent engagement and, in doing so, promote a positive school environment.
- Unmanageable Volume of Communications. Like white noise, the effectiveness of communications falls drastically as the volume of communications increase. Parents simply can’t keep up with the vast array of school communications that arrive alongside the normal, everyday barrage of marketing and personal messages.
- Complicated Reports. When reports from the school aren’t easily “digestible,” parents (and teachers) have a difficult time understanding them. This results in delayed reactions, untimely decisions, and sometimes inaction all-together.
- Communications aren’t always received. Not every family has access to the same communication tools. Minority and lower income families are sometimes left outside the loop due to lack of access to the Internet or cell phones in the home.
To be successful in communicating with parents, schools must meet every one of these challenges, no matter what communication tools they use.
What Research Teaches us about Parent Engagement
There’s a lot to be learned from the studies done at Harvard and the NCA Journal to improve parent engagement. Here’s what we observed:
- Due to the prevalence of smartphones, schools should use mobile technology, such as texting or mobile apps, as the primary source of communication.
- Teacher-to-parent communications need to be specific rather than general in nature.
- Teacher-to-parent communication needs to include both the negative and positive aspects of a student’s behavior.
- Schools need to use a variety of communication channels so they can “reach parents from all economic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds.”
Hero’s Parent Engagement Tools
The importance of Parent Engagement was the catalyst for development of Hero Engagement Tools as another means for educators and parents alike to improve student behavior and promote a positive school climate. Hero addresses some of the common problems many schools experience with getting parents involved.
Hero’s Parent + Student Engagement Tools aim to make communication with parents seamless. Teachers can initiate conversations with parents, who can opt in to push notifications, so behavior updates are given in real time. Parents can log in at any time to see much of the same data analytics that teachers see, but at a high level view. These reports show what matters most concerning a student’s behavior—both positive and negative—all at a glance. This encourages parent involvement in a way that feels more like collaboration—in which the school and parent are partners in their child’s success.
For more research on Parent Engagement:
- Harvard’s The Underutilized Potential of Teacher-to-Parent Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment
- National Communications Association Journal’s Characteristics of Parent-Teacher E-Mail Communication
- Harvard’s The Effect of Teacher-Family Communication on Student Engagement: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment