7 strategies for sharing critical student data with parents

Parent portals are the key tool for providing parents with actionable information
By: | July 28, 2020
Parents need better student data as the online learning era has made them a critical part of the education process. (GettyImages/damircudic)Parents need better student data as the online learning era has made them a critical part of the education process. (GettyImages/damircudic)

Families can better help their children succeed in online instruction if schools provide extensive, timely and relevant learning data, says a report published on Tuesday.

In an era of online learning that requires greater family involvement, district leaders should not assume that parents don’t have the skills to understand performance data, according to “Education Leaders Must Not Be Gatekeepers,” a new release from the Data Quality Campaign.

And administrators and teachers already have the key tool—parent portals—to provide the data efficiently.

“Leaders must meet parents’ data needs and support them in accessing and understanding information that will help them best meet the needs of students,” the report says.

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Providence Public Schools in Rhode Island, for example, is developing “Learner Profiles” to provide data. The initiative includes holding focus groups to gather feedback from parents on the usefulness of the profiles. The district also is bringing out-of-school providers, such as afterschool programs, to provide additional data.

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Tuesday’s report highlights the following best practices for providing actionable data through parent portals:

  1. User-friendly interface and language: Portals should be easy to navigate and the language should be easy for parents to understand. That means all jargon should be defined, and information should be translated into the various languages spoken within a district.
  2. Timely alerts: Parents should receive alerts when important information is posted, such as when their child misses an assignment or risks failing a course.
  3. Seamless communications: Portals should let families, teachers, and administrators communicate seamlessly.
  4. Clear context: Student data must be presented alongside school data so parents can see how their child’s performance compares to the overall school and district.
  5. Multiple data sources: Logging on to one platform should provide access to multiple data sources.
  6. Up-to-date data: Data must be timely for it to be most effective.
  7. Actionable information: Portals must also provide resources and actions parents can to improve their child’s performance.

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Families also want more access to overall school performance to trach whether academic standards are being met. More than three-quarters of parents agreed that statewide math and reading assessments should resume in 2021, a Data Quality Campaign poll found.

The Georgia State Department of Education, for example, filters data through districts’ student information system so it is more accessible to educators and parents.

Georgia education officials worked with vendors to add functions to their platforms that didn’t require the use of new dashboards, the Campaign’ report says.

More guidance on presenting data to parents can be found in the Campaign’s Show Me the Data report.

DA’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on K-12.

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