As educators, we talk a lot about the role that teachers play in the lives of students and debate the best ways to strengthen the classroom experience for students from all backgrounds. There is only so much a teacher can do, though, particularly with large class sizes and limited resources. Even teachers in the best of circumstances are limited when it comes to hours in the day and the amount of material that must be covered. As K-12 academic standards become more rigorous, parents are becoming an even more integral piece of a student’s success.
Asking parents to pick up some of the “slack” for teachers is often perceived as a burden and not as the legitimate parental duty it actually is. This is very unfortunate. No teacher would argue the fact that parents ARE needed to maximize student success - so how can educators, and society as a whole, make it so? Not an easy question to answer, is it? My thoughts: we must find new innovative ways to engage parents, and we must do it fast.
Why does parental engagement matter?
The most obvious benefit of parental involvement is more time spent on academic learning, with direct results in student performance. There are other benefits too, though, like:
- Parents being aware of what is taking place at the school and getting involved.
- Parents better understanding where their children may struggle, and not just hearing it secondhand at a teacher conference.
- Better attendance and participation for kids who follow the enthusiasm and good example of their parents.
- Parent-child bonding over a common goal (and what better one than education?).
Teachers reading this are likely shaking their heads as their frustration builds. Yes, parents are needed! Yes, students perform better if their parents are involved in their academics!
How edtech is shaping the future of parental engagement
Over the last decade, edtech companies have been experimenting with innovative ways to use technology to increase parental engagement, communication, etc. Thankfully, several of these companies are getting it right and are really doing a great job of helping school districts increase parental involvement. Let’s discuss the three companies that I believe represent the future of parental engagement.
ClassTag is a cloud-based app that helps schools engage parents in their community and improve the quality of family support in education. Teachers and schools can use this product for free, which is an added bonus for cash-strapped districts. ClassTag’s unique approach lies in dissecting key breaking points in parent engagement.
ClassTag realizes how busy teachers are and that is why the platform intelligently automates all follow-ups and reminders for various activities and parent-teacher conferences, and even personalized weekly newsletters. Not surprisingly, teachers love this system!
ClassTag seems to be the first service to support personalized, meaningful, two-way communication with all parents regardless of what devices they use, even if they are entirely offline. With its new release, ClassTag bridges the gap between families using technology and those completely offline to reach 100% of families.
The addition of integrated printing to its multi-channel communication suite gives teachers a simple, one-step process for ensuring that each parent gets relevant classroom information in the format they prefer. If a family isn’t being reached via email or mobile app, the chatbot-inspired smart assistant will recommend printing a personalized paper copy of announcements, reminders, and schedules to be sent home in children’s backpacks to those harder-to-reach parents. Reaching non-English speaking parents will also become much easier thanks to new translation functionality to be released later this summer.
Another interesting aspect of ClassTag is its stats. Now schools can use the built-in intelligence and analytics to get complete clarity on their parent engagement efforts and measure progress towards their goals. Reaching 100% of parents is the first milestone towards engaging all parents in school- and home-based activities. ClassTag will show you how effective the efforts are across communications and all the different activities you organize on ClassTag such as parent-teacher conferences, volunteering, events and more.
As a parent with a kid that is school-age, I know firsthand the challenge of managing all of the different messages that I receive from his school. What if all of those texts, emails, and scraps of paper could be aggregated to one place though? A spot where questions, messages, school needs and other information could live and be easily accessed by parents, teachers, and administrators? This is exactly the task that the creators of ParentSquare sought out to accomplish through their streamlined two-way communication platform for use between educators and parents.
ParentSquare has an easy-to-use interface that gives parents information in one streamlined location. With tabs for messages, events, people, photos, files and other options, parents can log into one system and have all the information they need. In short, ParentSquare makes school-to-home messaging simple, empowering parents to take a more active role in the academic success of their kids. Some of the standout features of ParentSquare include:
- Two-way messaging options between parents and teachers.
- The ability for parents and teachers to post information and events on boards that are shared with other families in the same class or school.
- An instant Spanish translation option, removing this language barrier in homes where it may otherwise prevent parents from being completely in the know regarding their kids’ academics.
- A people directory that gives contact information for prominent figures at the school and allows for messaging them within the platform.
When it comes to fragmented school-to-home communication, there can be a lot left to chance. ParentSquare combines messaging functions into one simple platform and offers some other intuitive features that encourage greater parental involvement in the schools that use it. Knowledge truly is power - and ParentSquare allows parents to have more of it through an efficient system that ensures stronger lines of communication.
Teachers struggle to connect with parents. Parents struggle to keep up with everything their kids have going on at school. School Messenger is a software as a service (SaaS) notification app that is utilized by school districts all over the United States to communicate with parents, students and staff via voice, SMS text, email and social media. Some of this its highlights include:
- Can be instantly translated into over 50 languages.
- It allows its user to post to social media platforms.
- Includes a lot of interactive features, including a survey module that allows the user to ask an limitless amount of questions through phone and web.
- Allows teachers to communicate about academic issues.
- Parents can access School Messenger through several mediums, including the web or phone.
- Includes a reporting feature that allows teachers to schedule and save reports. Allows teachers to monitor activity in real-time.
- It includes flexible management tools that support streamlined deployment and support. This is important for districts that have a lot of employees.
- Allows the user to control how and when messages are delivered to parents and students. This can be a fantastic time saver for teachers.
- School Messenger also helps with privacy. Teacher phone numbers do not appear on the messages.
Teachers should keep in mind that School Messenger should be used as a supplement for classroom communication, not the sole source. Families have different communication styles. Teachers should consider these as they create their communication plan. It is also important to remember that not everyone has access to the technology necessary to access these messages. Low-income families may not have mobile devices. Some families might live in areas where their cell phone signals might be unreliable or unavailable.
School Messenger is another tool in the teacher’s toolkit. It is a fantastic way to quickly and easily communicate with parents and students. Administrators can also utilize it to communicate with their staff. Communication at all levels improves with mindful use of this tool.
Knowledge truly is power - and the edtech companies that we have featured are ensuring that parents, students, and teachers have an efficient system that provides stronger lines of communication and engagement. Looks like the future of parental engagement is in good hands.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.