“The parent outreach and engagement process cannot be an afterthought,” says Kevin Chavous, president of technology-based education company Stride Inc. “Many superintendents, when they apply for a job, talk about curriculum and all the new things they want to do, and they put parent engagement at the bottom [of the list] if they include it at all.”
As K-12 schools prepare to open their doors for the first post-pandemic school year, leaders must carry the lessons they’ve learned into the future. The past two years have taught educators and leaders:
The list goes on. But another important takeaway from the pandemic is that parents have learned to become educated consumers when it comes to K-12 education, according to Chavous.
“Parents are focused not just on safety or curriculum; they’re focused on the basics,” he says. “There’s going to be a recognition that parents are deeply concerned about the basic purpose of schooling… in addition to the things that are in the headlines today.”
A recent survey conducted by Stride Inc. highlights the increasing need for transparency between school leadership and parents.
Here are the key findings:
- 81% of parents report wanting to know more about what their children are doing at school.
- 60% support public education.
- 50% would likely enroll their child in online school if it was an option.
- Teacher quality and school safety were the top two most important factors for choosing a school for their children (72% vs. 65%).
- 54% of parents expressed concern about gun violence in their child’s school.
In light of school safety, experts say practicing successful safety protocol should be a top priority. “School safety matters,” he says. “There’s so much tension in our country. There’s more violence playing out in America’s streets and schools. One of the reasons why parents are drawn to the online experience is school safety is more important than ever before.”
He adds that schools should not only voice policies they’re thinking about implementing to tackle certain issues, but they should also share data on policies that aren’t working and talk about their next planned steps with parents. “We need to make sure that school leaders are aggressively letting parents know the things they are going to stop doing that don’t seem to work and any new things they’re going to do.”
Sharing metrics with parents will empower them and allow them to be important partners in the process, Chavous advises. Meeting parents where they are will go a long way toward helping schools resolve issues as they enter the new academic year while supporting the needs of students and their parents.