The parents who show up regularly to school events and conferences are usually the ones you didn’t need to speak to in the first place, because their children are generally successful in school. So how do you get more involvement out of the parents who don’t typically attend these events? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but you can make a few changes to the way you’re communicating with them to get more of your parents involved.
How to Use Your Website to Get Parents More Involved at School
The technology you’re already using can be the most effective way to get parents involved in school. Here are our tips, gathered from 20 years of experience serving K-12 schools across North America:
Make Your Website the Source of Truth
When your school website is up-to-date with current events & important announcements, you can stop the misinformation campaigns in their tracks. As our client Andie Pasolini will tell you, “if you don't relay the full information to the parents, they’re going to fill up those gaps in information with whatever they find. Little by little, you get families to come to the website to find everything, so they don’t have to ask Johnny's mom.” (Read Andie’s full story here.)
Take the time to regularly update your website and remove any outdated information so that parents know they can rely on your website to find everything they need.
Create a Dedicated Parent Involvement Section of Your Website
Create a page on your website specifically to list ways that families can get involved in your school. Include any relevant dates or links, and make sure this page is updated regularly. Include a link to this page in your homepage navigation so that families can easily find and view the full list year-round.
Ask Families How They Want to Be Involved
You may have 100 amazing ideas for getting parents involved in school, but all your ideas won’t amount to anything if parents don’t actually take you up on your offer. The best way to get parents involved in school is to ask them what would interest them and serve their needs.
Create a form on your school’s website platform to ask parents about the type of involvement they want to have in their child’s school. Include multiple choice questions to make it quick and easy to fill out, but make sure you also leave a space for an open-ended response in case families have suggestions beyond what you’re offering.
Collect the data from this survey in the fall and use it to inform your plans for how to get parents involved in school for the remainder of the year.
How to Use Your Messaging Apps to Get Parents More Involved
Your website is the source of information for families to visit, but your messaging apps are how you reach out to parents directly to get them to engage with you. Are you using your apps to help you reach families in effective ways?
Make Sure Families Know How to Contact You
Parents need access to the contact information for all the school personnel who might be able to help them with problems that arise. Of course they should know how to contact their child’s teachers, but that’s only the beginning; they also need readily available contact information for administrators, coaches, guidance counselors, and other educational support personnel.
Make sure your Staff Directory is up to date and linked from your mobile app so that parents can get in contact with the school employees they need easily and quickly. If your app has 2-way conversations enabled, this will make it even easier for families to reach out and for staff members to respond. Plus, it allows for administrative oversight on these conversations and archiving features for transparency.
Keep Your Contact Information Up to Date
Sync your Student Information System (SIS) to your app to keep your contact information relevant and up to date for the families of all of your students. Ask families to update their SIS contact information any time there is a change in phone number, address, or email and since your SIS and your App are synced, you can make sure you are always sending announcements to the right contacts.
Give Notice, Then Remind
How many times have you heard a parent complain that they had “no idea” an event was happening at school that they might have wanted to attend? Maybe you think you’re giving out enough information about these events, but chances are you could be doing more.
Give plenty of advance notice about school events—at least a month, if you’re able to do so. That way families have time to prepare by asking off work, getting a babysitter for younger children, or anything else they need to do in order to prioritize that event on their calendar.
Then, follow up that advance notice with regular reminders. Send them out across all channels (website, social media, app, mass messaging) so that nobody misses the memo, or the event.
Group Parents According to Interests
Edlio client Dr. Joseph Glavan offers this important reminder: “We are dealing right now in a society that is inundated with information. So when we go ahead and send an email, it's not getting through. And there's actually important information that people need to see right now,” he says. (Read Dr. Glavan’s story of community engagement here!)
What do you do to combat information overload for your families? Group them by interest so that they only receive announcements about information that is relevant to them. A parent of a high school freshman doesn’t need to know about Senior Night. A kindergarten parent doesn’t need to be reminded to attend the 5th grade graduation meeting.
Group your families into contact groups that are sorted by the age of their child and any other organizations they’re a part of (sports teams, clubs, etc.) and send out information only as it is relevant to each group. That way you won’t overwhelm your families with information, and they will be more likely to pay attention to the messages that come through because they’ll know ahead of time it’s going to be relevant.
Engage Without Interrupting
Families are busy, and they want to stay informed about the school without being interrupted all day by various updates and alerts. Try to streamline your announcements so that you don’t send too many messages on the same day, and whenever possible try to communicate in a way that is directly aligned with the topic.
For example: a phone call should really be an emergency or urgent situation, like a child who needs to be picked up due to illness, or school closing early for severe weather. Other types of information, like Thursday’s PTO meeting, can be communicated via text, email, or push notification so that parents can access the information when it’s convenient for them rather than being interrupted by a phone call.
Need More Ideas for How to Get Parents Involved in School?
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