Washington, D.C. — Ahead of the spring semester testing season, the Center for American Progress released a new report that examines how schools are doing in communicating with students’ parents. The report includes an original survey of more than 900 parents, who are mostly representative of the public school student population; more than 400 teachers; and more than 400 school leaders, including principals and other administrators.
The survey tracks what type of information the respondents believe is important for schools and teachers to communicate to parents; how often they currently receive or share that information; how often they believe that information ideally should be shared; and what types of platforms or communication tools are most helpful for sharing information. Key findings from the report include:
- Parents, teachers, and school leaders report that communication is clear and actionable and that schools provide the right amount of information. Majorities of parents, teachers, and school leaders report that communication allows parents to engage with their child’s learning and that parents are engaged in learning and the school environment.
- The types of information with the highest importance ratings across all three groups include individual student achievement, patterns of behavior, disciplinary action, curricula, and logistics such as early dismissal. The groups overwhelmingly identify individual student achievement as the most important type of information.
- Parents and teachers say that ideal communication would happen more frequently—particularly in more advanced grade levels—while school leaders are more likely to say that the volume of communication is increasingly too much.
- Communication systems relying on newer technology are not being utilized more or less than other systems, nor are they considered more or less valuable. However, the survey does find that the most valuable systems for parent communication involve individualization.
- Parents’ race and ethnicity also did not seem to determine perceptions of communication or overall engagement. There were no significant differences in current or ideal frequency by parents’ race and ethnicity. There were also no significant differences in engagement with student learning, although Black or African American parents did report slightly higher engagement with the school community.
Additionally, the report includes an analysis of parent engagement plans in six districts across two states, varying for school size. The authors found that although the plans varied in detail, all of them covered the federal requirements for parent engagement and, as a result, had similar underlying strategies.
The report also includes a series of recommendations to strengthen parent-school communication, including:
- Federal policymakers should focus on parents and families as crucial partners in federal education programs; maintain funding for parent engagement under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act; and provide technical assistance for parent engagement.
- State policymakers should provide technical assistance to help school districts develop engagement plans to meet the needs of their population; encourage parent surveys to look at parent attitudes toward schools and disaggregate data as much as possible; and offer professional development opportunities for districts and school leaders on how to effectively engage families.
- District officials should effectively use Title I funds to develop a strong district plan that can help set strong, consistent school-parent communication expectations and facilitate communication within individual schools; hire technology advisers to support family engagement efforts; and reinforce parent communication as a central responsibility of every teacher and every school by allocating sufficient resources to ensure that teachers and other school staff have the capacity and tools to communicate with parents.
“Routine communication among parents, teachers, and school administrators is critical in supporting students’ academic, behavioral, and social outcomes,” said Meg Benner, senior consultant for K-12 Education at CAP. “This report finds that schools and teachers are making promising strides toward engaging parents and that stakeholders believe the most crucial information relates to individualized student achievement.”
Read the full report: “One Size Does Not Fit All: Analyzing Different Approaches to Family-School Communication” by Meg Benner and Abby Quirk
For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at gro.ssergorpnacirema@regrebeesc or 202-741-6292.