Communication Upgrade for Parents

Principals should use email and auto-phone messages to help keep parents in the know.

February 2018, Volume 41, Issue 6

Now that technology is an integral part of our classrooms and schools—think 1:1 devices, class apps, and other digital tools—schools and districts are changing the way they communicate with parents. In order to effectively keep parents in the know, principals and administrators must understand exactly how parents prefer to receive information.

According to the 2016 “Speak Up Research Project for Digital Learning” (which surveyed more than 38,000 parents), parents and principals agree that email and auto phone messages are the top two most effective forms of school- or district-to-home communication.


Eighty-seven percent of surveyed parents indicated that personal email is the most effective vehicle for communicating with parents, an increase of 36 percent since 2010. Similarly, with emphasis on timely and easily read information, 55 percent of parents would like their child’s teacher or school to simply “text them” when they want to communicate information.

Additionally, 50 percent of the parents noted that a face-to-face meeting was the most effective way to communicate information—a significant decrease from just one year ago, when 64 percent of parents valued this type of communications approach.

There is a disconnect regarding the effectiveness of website and social media communications. Nearly half of principals said websites are effective for teacher communications, but just 19 percent of parents agreed. Also, while more than half of principals said Facebook is an effective means of communication, just 24 percent of parents agreed.

Across the board, tech-savvy parents favor digital communications by a ratio of almost 2 to 1 compared to parents with beginner tech skills. Thirty-six percent of parents with advanced tech skills endorsed the idea of a mobile app as an effective communication tool, compared to 27 percent of parents with average tech skills and 16 percent of the parents who said their tech-savviness was at the beginning level.

Parents of Elementary Students

There are also different communication preferences for parents of elementary-aged children and parents of students in secondary and high school. Adults who are under 40 years of age and parents of elementary students are the most supportive of the use of emerging digital tools to support school-to-home communications.

Seventy-one percent of parents of elementary school-aged children indicate their frequency of Facebook usage as “often” or “all the time,” while only 53 percent of the parents of students in grades 6–12 report that level of regular usage.

Forty-five percent of elementary school parents are more interested in face-to-face meetings, compared to 30 percent of high school parents.

Although there is no rush to remove all traditional school-to-home communications, including face-to-face meetings, hard-copy flyers, and/or parent association meetings, the data suggest a demand for digital tools to more effectively disseminate information to parents. With technology rapidly changing, schools should continue to upgrade their communication methodologies to help parents aid in the overall success of their students. To view the full report, visit

Originally published in Principal magazine as “Shedding Light on Comprehensive Learning.”

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