Educational professionals know that effectively communicating with the school community drives successful learning. However, sending your communication is only half the battle. Two-way communication with parents is essential. So how do you encourage parents and stakeholders to read and engage with your messages?
Here are three high-impact questions to propel your school or district’s communication efforts:
Who’s listening (or not)?
A relevant message is an impactful one. Curating the right kind of content at the right time requires getting to know your audience. Your readers aren’t a monolith, so your messaging shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all either.
Start by collecting and assessing data about your families’ preferences. For example, what are their preferred methods of communication? What time of the day is a guardian most likely to engage? What do parents and families need to feel supported by the school and its staff? (Breiseth, 2021).
Creating audience segments is also worthwhile. That way, you can tailor your messages to target the needs and interests of a particular group. This strategy also helps ensure that you’re physically delivering the message to the right people. In other words, a note about the Kindergarten continuation ceremony, 6th-grade ACCESS testing, or the senior capstone project circulates to the audience segments that make the most sense.
In sharing information with the school community, it’s tempting to overdo it — but too much of a good thing can backfire. Large-scale information blasts and message overload can overwhelm your audience and result in disengagement. For example, your freshman families do not need to know all the information regarding the graduation ceremony. Getting blasted with unnecessary information can lead to communication burnout. However, intentional and purposefully delivered messages can shift the needle.
What’s your point?
If families perceive the message as irrelevant, time-consuming, or linguistically inaccessible, they’re likely to check out. This is especially true in culturally dynamic learning communities, where accessibility factors like language and literacy are more prevalent. Messaging that misses the mark on translation, mixed-mode access (like text-to-speech), or culturally responsive appeal risks shutting some families out.
From the reader’s standpoint, the question becomes: If it’s not for me, valuable to me, or accessible to me, why engage?
Aiming for quality over quantity means making every word count. Try these tips to increase engagement with your next communication:
- Keep messages short and to the point.
- Focus on two or three key points.
- Break up blocks of text with bullet lists or sections.
- Optimize for translation by using straightforward language and a clear structure. This simplified text is key to accurate conversion if you plan to use translation services.
- Create workable pathways for partners with limited literacy skills, like SchoolCNXT’s support of speech-to-text and dictation capacities (Houk, 2005).
How is your communication a dynamic experience?
The most impactful exchanges happen as two-way communication with parents, meaning they are both family and school-initiated. “Two-way communication provides the foundation on which solid family-school partnerships are created,” says Oregon’s Department of Education. “The more families and school staff share relevant information about a student, the better equipped both are to support learning.”
If you’re unsure where your organization stands, use this rubric to examine your current practices for two-way communication with parents. Then, determine a path forward. To begin or refine this process, try these steps:
- Establish a team to thoughtfully consider the school or district’s two-way communication goals and existing practices. Consider walking through a School Level Partnerships Inventory, like this one from NMPED. Use data alongside results from the inventory to make an informed action plan.
- Focus on trust to build engagement. For example, concentrate on finding the right tone, communicating regularly, demonstrating active listening, and reassuring parents that information shared about their child is confidential (Unicef, 2020).
- Boost infrastructure. “Equitable engagement can only be achieved at scale if resources are provided to build and sustain capacity in schools, classrooms, and the community,” says Carnegie Corporation of New York. Moreover, the report continues: “Every organization signals its priorities to stakeholders by what gets funded and embedded into its leadership structure.” Choosing to invest in and utilize equitable two-way systems speaks volumes.
Active two-way communication with parents makes all the difference
Effective communication can make an enormous difference in the overall health of a school community. SchoolCNXT by CNXT Digital is a comprehensive two-way communication solution that connects districts, administrators, teachers, parents, and students, providing an easy and equitable way to boost family and community engagement. If you’d like to learn more about our solutions, contact us today.
Boston Public Schools (2021). III-C-1 Two Way Communication. https://www.bostonpublicschools.org/Page/383.
Breiseth, Lydia (2021). Communicating with ELL Families: 10 Strategies for Schools. National Education Association.
Carnegie Corporation of New York (2021). Report: Embracing a New Normal: Toward a More Liberatory Approach to Family Engagement.
Houk, Farin A. (2005). Supporting English Language Learners: A Guide for Teachers and Administrators, Pearson Education Canada.
Family, School, and Community Partnerships in New Mexico (2020). Effective Two Way Family-School Communication.
Oregon Department of Education (2020). Family Engagement Toolkit: Two-Way Communication for Principals. https://www.oregon.gov/ode/educator-resources/assessment/Documents/Two_Way_Communication_Culture.pdf
Unicef (2020). Tips for schools on how to strengthen communication with parents/caregivers. https://www.unicef.org/romania/stories/tips-schools-how-strengthen-communication-parentscaregivers