Why Your Parent Communication App Doesn’t Work for Distance Learning

April 27, 2020

Parent communication was a focus for most districts across the U.S even before the abrupt changes made with the COVID-19 school shutdowns. Everything shifted in the blink of an eye, however, when schools across the country began extending spring break and then delaying return - many with no intention of returning to the classroom at all for the 2019-2020 school year. While communication with parents was always important - suddenly it has become critical. 

Parent Communication Choices Abound

There are an overwhelming amount of choices on the market for tools meant to bring parents to the table - each claiming to be the best option.  There are apps that give stakeholders a way to text teachers or see their children’s grades. There are online portals for parents with instruction and engagement ideas. Even alternatives to social media - like Facebook - but for the classroom. The apps installed5-01problem? Only a fraction of your parents are actually going to choose to download, setup or opt-in - and that just isn’t good enough right now. 

The disparity between parents who access digital resources and those that do not holds the key to understanding what steps need to be taken. Educators are doing their best to reach every parent - and they are resorting to using their personal phone numbers, giving up their privacy, and spending extra time to do it. We can do better. It starts with eliminating the ‘opt-in’. 

What do we mean by “Opt-in”?

An “opt-in” is a choice a person has to make in order to participate, think newsletters, contests, wifi at a hotel. For parent communication in schools, it is essentially a hoop through which a parent has to jump. Some are easier: “click to accept”. Some are harder: “download an app”. Some are downright frustrating - those are usually the systems that require multiple steps or even multiple programs to receive communication. We never want to frustrate a parent to the point they give up.

According to Harvard researchers, most parent communication options are "high friction," and therefore less likely  to yield positive results. The standard 'opt-in' process yields approximately 1% success. A simplified process will connect about 11% of parents. But an automatic enrollment-  one in which parents have to do nothing - results in 95% take-up. Complicated opt-in processes are a massive barrier whether your goals are student achievement, or in the case of school shutdowns, simply reaching a parent to say you are there for support. 

In addition, studies show that 15% of Americans do not own smartphones. That percentage increases with lower income earners - often the group of parents unable to attend in-person events - and now unable to download your parent app. Differences in resources like income, internet access, technological know-how, or even just time mean that communication hoops are effectively separating your district community into accessible parents and inaccessible parents. Parents you can reach vs. parents you cannot reach. It’s time we eliminated that division. 

Reach every parent during remote learning

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Reach Every Parent

Connecting with parents requires meeting them where they are - and the one place every parent can be reached is in their text messaging center on their phone or with person to person phone calls. That’s it. It’s not magic. And it doesn't even require automatically enrolling parents in anything. You can have the best parent app in the world, but if only a third of your parents download it, you’ve missed the boat. 

As an educator, you need parents to be involved in their child’s education more now than ever. However, outside the school walls, you may be reluctant to contact parents from your home or mobile phone, crossing the boundary between work and personal life. This is just one of the  things to consider, before you determine how to reach your student’s family. SchoolStatus can help:

  • Maintain personal privacy when placing calls
  • Provide call logging to monitor completion and frequency 
  • Insure Federal compliance 
  • Content review to maintain professionalism and for reputation defense 
  • Data security of call records

SchoolStatus was designed on the idea that communication should be easier for educators as well as parents. That’s why calls and texts go straight to a parent’s phone, and personal information is protected. All calls are recorded and transcribed for compliance purposes and to maintain administrative oversight. 

Reaching parents has never been more important for the continuity of learning than it is right now. Don’t let the ‘opt-in’ hurdle of an unwieldy parent app get in the way of reaching every parent in your district.   

“You guys have been a lifesaver as we transition into eLearning! SchoolStatus was already an amazing tool, but now it has become invaluable.”

- Tiffany Webb, Assistant Principal 

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SchoolStatus pairs student data with parent communication tools providing a ‘one-stop-shop’ for educators.  Within a single system, teachers have access to all the student data aggregated at the district and distilled down to the individual student. Armed with data, educators use the communication tools for informed conversations to support students in the classroom and at home. 

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