In a world of texts, Tweets and Snaps, it may come as a surprise to hear that good old email is still the No. 1 tool education leaders use to keep the school community informed.
Clear and consistent communication is now becoming an even higher priority for many administrators as COVID and remote learning have gotten parents more involved in their schools. And most educators are well aware that parental involvement improves academic achievement, student behavior and teacher morale, among other benefits.
While technology continues to give school leaders new ways to connect with students and families, more than 90% of educators still use email most frequently, according to a survey by ParentSquare, a multi-platform messaging system for K-12. Most of the educators polled also said they use multiple methods to communicate.
“Two years ago our district relied on paper flyers and robocalls,” says Renee Delport, the school-to-home communications officer for Kings Canyon Joint USD in Central California. “During the pandemic, it was impossible to send home paper communications with students. After gathering feedback from families, our district and schools changed the way we send out communication.”
About 40% of King Canyon’s families prefer text messages and app notifications, while just under a third rely on phone calls and only about 13% depend on email. That’s why the district uses ParentSquare to deliver messages across all those channels, Delport says.
Communications go even more digital
The survey shared eight insights into how K-12 leaders are staying in touch:
1. Multiple channels: Leaders at more than two-thirds of schools and districts use five to six different channels of communication, depending on which platform students and families prefer. Some 93% of educators say email is their favorite, followed by:
- School/district website: 84%
- Text messages: 73%
- Social media: 71%
- Phone calls: 66%
- Mobile apps: 64%
- Video apps: 35%
But it’s not all about tech. Just under half of the survey’s respondents said they still use flyers and hard-copy newsletters in their community outreach.
2. Popularity may not equal impact: “Email’s frequency of use is greater than its effectiveness,” the survey concludes. While about 40% of respondents said they used email most often, only about 30% considered it the most effective tool. The opposite was true for text messaging and phone calls, which were ranked twice as effective as their frequency of use.
3. Too many messages? Administrators are increasingly concerned about sending out too much information and messages not reaching parents. The goal will be to communicate with families over the channels they most prefer and find ways to verify that messages have been received and read.
4. How to elevate engagement. Educators would like to provide families with some training on how to use new communications platforms. They also want to ensure their messages can be translated into as many languages as necessary.
5. What will you use next week? Next month? Next year? Educators expect to use mobile apps, texts and social media more frequently over the next few years. Mobile apps, in particular, could see a three-fold increase in use while those flyers and newsletters will continue to disappear from district communications. The future of K-12 outreach is definitely digital, and educators are looking for tools that will deliver a single message across multiple channels.
6. Email may not be on top for long: Mobile apps and texting, already popular, will likely be even more heavily used in the coming years. About one-third of districts expect to use these channels much more frequently, putting them at the top for potential growth. On the other hand, only about one in 10 of the respondents said they will make greater use of email.
7. How to save time: The desire to streamline messages across multiple channels is leading more schools and districts to adopt a communications platform. About half of the respondents also reported using student information systems to communicate with families. Far fewer educators are using stand-alone social media and video applications for this purpose.
8. Long live flyers! Nearly two-thirds of the respondents intend to stop sending out flyers and newsletters. However, some of the educators surveyed said they may continue to share hard copies to ensure they are reaching all families. In fact, several respondents said some families still prefer flyers and newsletters.