When it comes to communicating with parents and students, many schools address the challenge by putting even more information — forms, calendars, pdfs, instructions — on their websites. As more information becomes available, additional pages are added and more downloads and uploads are enabled. What results is an unmanageable website that is confusing, out of date and increasingly ignored by parents and students alike.
To address the problems, many schools have created special parent ‘portals’ — password protected intranets that allow parents to search for and retrieve information on their childrens’ grades and assignments. There are three major problems with most portals, especially considering the ‘need-it-now’ more mobile phone oriented parent community:
- Access: First of all, many are not optimized for mobile phone use. That’s a deal breaker for 90% of parents. Secondly, they are usually passive. That means parents need to remember to go onto the portal with their user/password. The problem? Days and weeks can pass by and parents may miss important dates.
- Navigation: How deep do you need to drill to get to that one piece of information you need? With portals, the answer is often ‘too deep’. Portals that are not ‘alert oriented’ or are not well organized lead to confusion. Confusion leads to abandoning. And maybe never going back!
- Information: TMI! Many portals load up every shred of data, forms, calendars and other information that can trap parents in a maze of confusion. Portals should not be repositories, they should be agile, alert-driven, engaging, and geared towards instant access to key information — on the parents’ terms.
Adding to the above, these solutions are often expensive and take months to properly implement and deploy. And, while portals may seem a quick fix to troublesome websites, they only put a ‘band aid’ on an increasing need for single-touch access to all key information that parents with mobile phones expect from school administrators.
It’s time for school administrators to give outmoded parent portals a ‘time out’ and embrace mobile platforms that will organize data, make it easy to access and, most importantly encourage parents to engage with it.
SchoolCues provides smart solutions to help small schools succeed by engaging parents in the mobile generation.
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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.
Jack-o’-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It’s October, and you know what that means: pumpkins on every porch; that brisk feeling of fall in the air; and, for many, Parent Teacher Conferences. This article, on edweek.com, offers some very important suggestions and advice for conducting effective parent-teacher conferences at schools. I recommend for both parents and teacher to take a look and see if there’s anything they can change in the way they take part in or conduct these conferences.
Does the article provide good advice to follow? Is there anything you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!
Why iPad (and tablets in general) will succeed (Photo credit: ticoneva)
With all the emphasis on integrating technology into schools, it can be difficult to figure out how to do so in a meaningful, cost-effective way. Luckily, here are three ways that schools can take advantage of all the new technologies around them:
1. Engage Kids: In numerous blogs and videos, the increasing use of technology to promote hands-on learning in the classroom has produced amazing results. New websites, classroom equipment, and more, allow students to learn real-world skills while still being guided by their teachers. Whether starting Facebook pages for the class pets or publishing creative writing assignments on a class blog, the opportunities that technology presents are endless. It’s something that more and more schools are beginning to institute- a new way of engaging kids, with great results for all.
2. Engage Parents: Just as engaging kids in the classroom is often one of the more difficult of a teacher’s job, finding ways to communicate and engage with parents is often the one area that schools find hardest to improve. Though several studies have proven that parental engagement in schools is one of the most invaluable influences on child success, it can be nearly impossible to stay connected with parents who are busy and constantly on the go. Various services like text messaging and mobile apps allow schools to stay in contact with parents not only through their computers, but through their cellphones- the device people are shown to be using more and more often in daily life.
3. Streamline Organization: With so many other options available, it’s surprising that so many schools continue to use paper to keep track of important files and communications. Though it can be easy to use and access, paper communications and files can also be messy, time consuming, and difficult to organize. New software and apps allow teachers and school administrators to get organized in new ways, so that schools can become more efficient. Online and cellphone-accessible calendars and messaging systems can help schools coordinate fundraisers, arrange parent-teacher conferences, and much more.
Of course, this is only a short list of ways that schools can use technology-what others do you think should be included? What’s been your experience with technology in schools?
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!