Monday, March 6, 2017

Next Generation Parent Engagement #SXSWedu

Next Generation Parent Engagement
SXSWedu 2017 Panel

  • Mike Fee, Spotlight Education, @spotlighted
  • Troy Neal, YES Prep, @jarheadtn
  • Vidya Sundaram, Family Emgagement Lab (GreatSchools), @vidya_sundaram
  • Jeff Wayman (Moderator), Wayman Services, @WaymanDataUse

If schools don't tell their story, someone else will!

Q1 for Panelists: How do you see parent engagement?

Parent engagement is crucial. Research shows everything goes better when parents are engaged, from operation of the school to student learning & achievement. It is working in small pockets, but we have yet to find anything that works at scale.

Family engagement needs to be something that schools and families do together, not something the school does to the family.

Q2: What is hard about parent engagement?

Language barriers make engagement hard. We should recognize/encourage the things families do at home, not just whether/when they are showing up at school.

Devoting time to parent engagement is difficult. One successful school in California (Garfiled Elementary) has a full-time parent engagement specialist paid for by philanthropic dollars.

Meeting parents on their time. Teachers have a full time job. Parents have full time jobs.

Q3: How are you addressing parent engagement?

Technology can help support communication when schedules don't match up. Channels that parents and teachers want to use might be different, though. Parents might like texts, but teachers might like email. Also there can be language barriers. Sundaram has software to help bridge these gaps.

Fee is using proprietary software to deliver content to parents. Data from assessments, SIS, turned into personalized videos that show up on parents' mobile devices. Also gives ideas for what they can do to address issues.

Neal: YES prep uses quality data and provides it to parents. He is also starting a private venture around providing parents with similar data.

More Thoughts During Open Questions:

Keep information personalized. And keep it short and easily digestible. In a format that parents want.

Push out two or three questions to parents that they can ask their kids every day!

Remember, some people gravitate toward numbers, and others gravitate toward descriptive text. This is important to remember when sharing data.

Trust and mutual respect and meaningful relationships have to be built between parents and schools for any information to become meaningful. Info sharing/technology should be in service of building the relationship.

Some parents don't understand the educational system. Some are afraid to engage because they don't understand it or because of the current political climate. These are barriers that need to be overcome.

Top things families want to know about their children in school:

  • How their child is doing academically
  • Key skills their child is supposed to learn
  • How they can support their child's learning

Sundaram:: Email open rates are 15% industry-wide. So email is going to be very challenging for driving engagement. Text messages have a high response rates as high as 50-60%. Granular/personalized information sent by text has high promise.

For many parents, their phone is their internet. Personalized information is key.

When something has the child's name on it, the teacher's name, etc, parents are more apt to engage.

How do you measure family engagement? First, you have to identify the goal. Increased student attendance? Increased parent attendance at functions? Increased involvement with learning in the home? And is the participation really connected to improved student outcomes?

  • This is a complicated question!!!
Academic Parent/Teacher Teams (APTT) - Model where teachers and parents come together to set goals around student learning. Training included to help support student achievement goals. Check out through WestEd.

Families have limited time too. They want to know that what they are doing with their time is important. They can't do it all. Is what schools are doing to engage families going to directly support student learning?

Oakland Unified School District - Took key measures in subjects on standards-based report card and translated them to video report cards in the parents' language. Mike Fee's company produces this software.

Rule Number One: Try Everything! The more avenues you use, the more parents you are going to reach.

Know your audience. What technology do they have access to. How do they want to receive communication?

All original work in this post by Sandy Kendell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please see specifics on my re-use policy in the right-hand column of my blog before re-posting/re-using any of my blog content.