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Are You Good at Parental Communication?

Fascinating conversation over this holiday weekend with an individual who is an executive in a sizable company. It surrounded communications and collaboration in his organization during a time of accelerating change – and technologies such as wiki’s, VoIP, Twitter, social networks and more – and then it came around to this blog on Scholastic Administrator and how I’ve been driving hard the notion of the importance of enhanced collaboration in K-12 with a focus on better parental communication.

He blurted out, "What parental communication? Do you mean once a term conferences and an occasional email? What a joke. If I ran my business by letting my managers do whatever they wanted for months and then let me know if the employees under their management are succeeding or failing once per quarter, we’d be out of business! We must be able to make frequent and constant course corrections in order to stay headed down the path of success."

Not prepared for his passionate outburst, I made certain I understood what he wanted and expected. "We have in place all sorts of means to ensure that I, and my other leaders, are fully informed and constantly on top of changes and progress. From GANTT charts in project plans to Powerpoint updates to notifications by email/text message or phone calls, it's a constant stream of communication that ensures I'm able to measure and manage that progress. All I ask is that my son's school help me measure and manage my son's progress and not simply give me a login to a "portal" with grades posted that, in many cases, are too late to affect.

This conversation caused me to email some colleagues, poke around the web for solutions, and examine them. I was intrigued when I visited Cisco's website (see "Want to Improve Communications to Parents? Keep it Simple" (PDF)) and saw they partnered with SchoolMessenger, a company with notification solutions that would go a long way toward meeting this executive's need to be a great coach and parent for his son.

These two paragraphs about summed up why I think their value proposition is worth looking at:

Widely touted as the single most important factor in determining a child's academic success , parent involvement yet remains one of the most difficult things to achieve. The key is open, two-way communication between stakeholders. SchoolMessenger is uniquely well-suited to the task. Informed parents become engaged parents.

In some cases, the most important benefit is simply broadening the base of parents who participate. In other situations, it's more important to keep parents aware of their students' progress, so that they will know when coaching or other support is needed. Whether they're being reminded about open school night, or about Janie's upcoming test, a call from the superintendent or principal helps form a powerful connection and achieves the desired result of bringing parents onto the team working for the child's academic success.

They also tout return on investment and cost savings in several places on their website, but it's the outcomes from significantly enhanced parental communication and involvement that matter.

As a parent who feels exactly like my executive friend -- that I'm basically in the dark with respect to coaching and supervising my son's academic progress until a portal view or end-of-term conference occurs -- I'd love a solution like this as long as it was coupled with much better published communications on the website or teacher blogs.

In any event, please look at the way you currently communicate with your parents and make them part of your team as you drive toward the best student outcomes possible.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Accelerating Change are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.