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Reminders for Effective Communication and Engagement with Parents

Helpful Reminders for Communicating and Engaging with Parents

The following recommendations have been adapted from guidance on engaging parents through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and are based on qualitative research conducted across 20 states and multiple national surveys. These recommendations include effective strategies for various types of engagement and are designed to help districts make the most of their parent outreach efforts. Learning Heroes has been the driving force in highlighting the critical need for evidence-based communications with parents and has funded much of this research.

  • Always provide information within the following context that makes it personal for the parent/guardian:

    • “Why is this important for my child, and how will it help him or her?”

  • Information should be written in a basic and factual manner.

    • If it is not, it may be perceived as untrustworthy. Make every effort to be as specific as possible.

  • Parents want brief, clear and concise information.

    • Examples include:
      • Actionable Checklists: Checklists that identify simple actions and resources to help parents become more informed or help their child are useful.​
      • Visuals and Graphics: To increase readability, use visuals and infographics when possible. Materials should also include plenty of text features, including white space and bolding to help parents easily identify the key takeaways. Check out the list of print materials compiled here.

  • Leverage existing communications channels to gather and share feedback.

    • Accountability committees,
    • PTA/PTO,
    • Special Education Advisory Committees (SEAC), and
    • Other advisory councils.

  • Engage effective communication channels.

    • Phone calls and Text: Most parents said in a recent Learning Heroes survey that their favored communications vehicles were phone calls and text, although email was also popular. However, some parents still prefer to receive hard copies sent directly in the mail, including parents in low-income households.
    • Digital Channels: During a crisis, it is a good practice to use all methods possible to ensure parents get the message. In addition to phone calls, email, and text, this may also include posting the information on a school/district website, using social media, and airing radio and TV PSAs.

  • Ensure materials are accessible.

    • Be sure all communication materials – whether hard copy or electronic – are accessible to parents with disabilities and available in other languages.

  • Provide updates via video and share link via text, email, and social media.

  • Gather parent input on what they need and how they need it.

    • Consider creating an online form or survey to gather input from parents on the information that they are looking for and how they would like to receive it.