15 questions to ask when evaluating communications platforms

Key points:

  • Home-school communications systems help to build trust and establish consistency in a school community
  • Districts must be clear in their communications, and to do so, they must select the right platform
  • See related article: Your top 5 school-home communication challenges, solved

The importance of effective home-school communications has never been higher. Families expect to be kept informed of their child’s activities, academic progress, and expectations. However, confusion and frustration often ensue when messaging is not centralized or when individual messages contradict each other.

In today’s educational environment, it is vital the school or district have a clear message with leaders understanding exactly what is to be communicated. It is equally important that families trust the authenticity of the communications.

When considering a new home-school communications system, use the following checklist to ensure that your new system provides these features and functionalities.

For everyone:

  1. Does the tool offer one unified platform for all school-home messaging?
  2. Does it involve all users from district administrators and teachers to families?
  3. Does it offer voice, text, email, website, mobile app, and social media?
  4. Does it provide two-way communication?
  5. Does it support communications equity by providing two-way instant translation and language preferences?

For parents and guardians:

  • Will families be notified of updates only relevant to their child?
  • Are the platform functions easy to navigate?
  • Does it allow parents and guardians to select their preferred mode and frequency of communication?
  • Are real-time translations available for families who don’t speak English?
  • Does it allow parents and guardians to securely verify their preferred contact details and easily update their school information if needed?

For teachers:

  1. Does the solution provide classroom communication for teachers?
  2. Will it free up teachers’ time in their day-to-day schedule?
  3. Will it make communications-based tasks, such as asking for classroom supplies and organizing parent-teacher conferences, easier?
  4. Will teachers be able to communicate with families about classroom needs, particularly with parents and guardians who do not understand English?
  5. Does it provide teachers with accurate contact information by class, student and grade that is automatically maintained?

Getting everyone on the same page

The challenge is that many school districts added school-home communication technology platforms in much the same way they have acquired all technology—one program at a time. As is often the case with legacy systems, each group has its own preferred method of communicating with families. Teachers, principals, and districts often use multiple systems. The results are often a mishmash, with no coherent approach as to how messages are sent or who sends them, leaving families with questions about who is sending messages and the information being delivered.

Using multiple systems also means staff and teachers may find it difficult to learn how to effectively use all available communication tools. District IT departments may have higher maintenance and support costs, or they may decide not to support such tools at all. Selecting a K-12 school communications platform like ParentSquare, which supports multiple needs simultaneously and is designed to engage parents can save time, increase technology adoption by staff and families, reduce mailings costs and reduce or eliminate message confusion.

Building trust between home and school is a critical component of a healthy school culture and engaged family community. Switching to a new communications platform must meet a variety of needs across the entire district and community. Look over the 15 questions outlined in this article to see how you can get your team and your families on the same page to benefit from a new school-home platform.

Related: Learn to align your communication strategies with school safety

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