Five reasons why schools are challenged in keeping their parents engaged.
- Over 75% of small schools are faced with declining enrollment and / or budgets year over year. With limited technology infrastructure and resources, they are constantly in search of that ideal solution to market to and engage with parents. Its a version of an “abracadabra” which either doesn’t exist or it’s called a custom solution!
- School websites are primarily a marketing tool for new (prospective) parents to find out more about the schools. Existing parents rarely go to their school websites, irrespective of how relevant the content is. Yet schools constantly upgrade, change, knead, and spruce up their web content and spend valuable $$ on SEO and social media, trying to increase their traffic. But research shows that over 80% of a school’s enrollment comes from families living within a 15 mile radius.
- “Constantly Contacting” the parent is unlikely to get them excited – it’s the Rule of “5-85-2-9” – Five hours to create a newsletter – 85% of them go unopened – less than two minutes spent on those that are opened – attention span of parents is less than 9 seconds to get your message in!
- Parental engagement typically peaks during auctions, fund raisers and carnivals. Practically, is more of these the solution?
- With the explosive growth in mobile devices, there has been a rapid decline in web traffic as more users prefer to receive their content and on a mobile device. However, a vast majority of small schools continue to rely on the web as their main engine of ontent dissemination.
Isn’t it time for schools to start thinking about the future trends especially if they are catering to the next generation of parents?
Students at Mililani Middle School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The research in this report, published by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, seems to point toward a definitive yes.
Researchers from psychologists to education specialists have all shown support for this idea. It certainly makes sense: middle school is a time of change, when students are transitioning from one extreme to another. Increased parental involvement could do wonders for kids by helping them adjust and prepare their study strategies, work expectations, and schedules for the extra work of high school.
Then again, it’s important to keep in mind that middle school and elementary school are no picnic, either. Can we really say that one age level is more important than another? Perhaps the best solution would be to agree that parental engagement is always important, no matter students’ age level.
We’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you agree that middle school is the most important time for parental engagement?
We recently surveyed over 5,000 parents and small school administrators around the country, and became well acquainted with the way today’s schools communicate with parents. Here are our TOP TEN findings:
Over 70% of Montessori schools primarily use standalone newsletters and websites to communicate with parents.
- It takes an average of 5 hours for a school to create, edit, compile, and send out a newsletter (using an existing template, with input by several school staff members).
- The average school newsletter consists of over 750 words, or approximately two and a half pages of text.
- Parents spend less than two minutes of their time reading newsletters, which translates to a maximum of 360 words. This means that over 50% of school newsletter content goes unread.
- 85% of school newsletters sent to parents remain unopened.
- Parents receive more than 70 emails daily, including newsletters, credit card statements, and payment reminders. Personal emails make up less than 20%of their inboxes.
- The human brain cannot process and retain more than seven (plus or minus two) pieces of information in short term memory (Think social security, phone number, driver’s license, license plates, etc.)
- School websites are primarily marketing tools that allow new (prospective) parents to find out more about schools.
- Once a child is enrolled in a school, parents visit school websites to retrieve information; they prefer to receive information.
- Annually, Montesori schools spend over $ 6,000.00 – $ 8000.00 on newsletters and websites, in an attempt to market to and engage with parents.
For all small schools, whether charter, montessori, or private, administrators might want to question whether their current method of communication is truly the best.
Schoolbus Heaven (Photo credit: Kevin Labianco)
Here’s a great article that covers some of the highlights from the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher that came out earlier in the year.
Here’s my take:
- The article says that parental engagement has been steadily increasing since 1988. Though this is good news, it would be nice if we were given more specific statistics about the change in parental engagement in schools. How much of a role have the changing roles of technology played in this transition?
- It would be nice to see more data about which kinds of parental engagement have been increasing. The article mentions “parents visiting schools” and students talking with parents about schools, but what about PTA meetings, Parent-teacher conferences, and fundraiser volunteering?
- It’s important to remember that parental engagement in schools helps both students and teachers achieve success. One point the article made: teachers are more likely to enjoy their place of work if the parents there make sure to stay engaged in school events.
Do you think parents are more engaged now than they were 20 years ago? How can we improve engagement in schools? Let us know in the comments!
Communication is often key for schools looking to increase student success and build better relationships with parents. Though most schools feel that they can address all their communications needs only by creating and updating a website, many have found that solely relying on websites leaves much to be desired. Here’s why:
- Websites are static. Across the nation, extreme budget cuts are forcing school administrators, teachers, and officials to make tough decisions about issues such as cutting programs, reducing salaries, and expanding class sizes. Not only can most schools not afford to create a professionally-designed website, but the whole issue of parent-school communication often gets pushed to the back burner. Websites’ static content and hard-to-navigate pages make it both difficult and burdensome for parents and students to find the information they need, on time.
- Parents are busy. This generation of parents is said to be the busiest one yet, and schools need to make sure that they can stay in contact with these parents who are constantly on the go. When schools need a quick way to send information to parents, they don’t usually rely on their websites to get the word out- and for good reason. Now that everyone is busy, schools need to make sure that all parents-whether they’re working two jobs or one, traveling or commuting-have easy access to the information they need.
- Smartphones usage is increasing. More and more people are using their smartphones and smartphone apps to accomplish daily tasks. According to Business Insider, web use conducted on mobile devices as opposed to on computers has been climbing steadily since 2009, and shows no sign of stopping any time soon. It’s evident that schools trying to modernize and consolidate their communications systems shouldn’t ignore the prospect of mobile solutions.
What do you think? Is it smarter for schools to focus on communicating with smartphone-based parents? Are school websites destined to be a thing of the past?Let us know in the comments!
Image via CrunchBase
Earlier, we talked about why schools shouldn’t use Facebook to communicate with parents. Today, we’re focusing on the benefits for schools that come with using Facebook and Twitter to communicate with parents.
- Since so many parents already use Facebook and Twitter- for keeping up with old friends, staying informed about the latest news, or stalking their favorite celebrities-schools already have a digital audience that they can rely on. Most parents are already familiar with the website, and check their pages often. Facebook makes it easy for schools to stay in touch with parents, and vice versa.
- It’s tempting to ignore the costs that schools incur through paper communications such as flyers, but they still matter, especially to struggling small and mid-sized schools. Replacing paper communication with free social media websites would allow schools to save money, which they could use towards other purposes.
- Facebook updates are quick to send out and easy to post; they allow administrators to post updates in many different formats (videos, pictures, links) and make it easy for parents to respond. They can be engaging in a way that papers cannot, and they help administrators save valuable time.
- Facebook pages can create a “digital community” around your school by providing a positive space for parents and administrators to interact with one another. Parents can post questions directly to a school’s page and take advantage of the social nature of the website by collaborating and getting in touch with other parents.
Given our posts about both the pros and cons of using Facebook (and other social media sites) for parent-school communication, what do you think? Can social media truly replace paper communication? Could a real school rely on a “digital community”?
KIDS DRAW THE DARNDEST THINGS (Photo credit: marc falardeau)
PTA’s, or parent-teacher associations, have been around since the late 1800’s, and members are just as passionate now as they were so many years ago. They’re often one of the most available resources for parents who want to get more involved in their school. This article by Anne Stafford provides a great commentary on Parental Engagement from a parent’s perspective; it also shows the ways in which PTA’s can help teachers and parents cooperate and communicate.
Here’s our summary of why PTA’s and schools are great when they work together:
- When like-minded parents meet together for the sole purpose of improving and helping their school, good things can happen. Parents can more easily communicate with schools, and vice versa.
- Parent volunteers are often the backbones of school-run fundraisers. It only makes sense that they should be able to have a voice in the ways in which school fundraisers are set up and run.
- Parents and teachers can accomplish great things when they work together. They can help improve curricula, raise money, develop school-wide programs to help the underprivileged- the list goes on and on!
- PTA’s provide an effective platform through which parents and schools can work together to endure the best possible education and school environment for students.
Have anything to add about Parental Engagement in PTAs? Tell us in the comments!