A recent survey from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) shows just how important it is for school districts to build outstanding communication networks with parents.

The organization’s survey collected answers from 50 member districts, ranging from rural to urban areas, to learn more about the communications preferences of parents and non-parents in these districts. Parents were particularly interested in receiving communication in these five ways:

  • Email from the school or district
  • Online portals on the district website for parents
  • School and/or district e-newsletters
  • Information posted directly to a school or district website
  • Telephone and/or voice messaging systems

In the past, districts often attempted to communicate with parents mostly by sending letters home with their students. This method alone can be unreliable, however. In today’s technology-driven world, there are more opportunities than ever for districts to reach families, and parents are embracing those opportunities. They want their information immediately and prefer to get it electronically.

Most parents wanted updates from the district via the above communication methods as quickly as decisions were reached. Less than 1 percent of all respondents said they wanted information on a less-than-quarterly basis.

What is interesting about this is that social media sites ranked below newspapers, television and school board meetings in terms of desired communication methods. Although social media is an effective tool at certain types of school communication, parents still prefer to get district information and news through other sources.

What types of information do parents want?

The survey also investigated the types of information parents wanted to receive. The following answers consistently appeared:

  • Updates on their children’s progress in the classroom and how they can improve
  • Notifications when their child’s performance begins slipping
  • Policies about grading and homework
  • Information on what their child is learning or will be learning this year
  • Information on their child’s behavior (for elementary students) or how to communicate with the teacher (for secondary students)

Clearly, parents want specific information about their children’s schools delivered to them efficiently and electronically. It is important for your district to establish a digital communications policy and system to keep parents in the loop about their children’s education and to improve their perception of the district’s success.