New Survey From West Reveals Schools Turn to Social Media, Mobile Apps, Multiple Channels for Effective Parent Engagement

5/16/2017 1:18:00 AM

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif., May 16, 2017 — For effective parent engagement, school districts increasingly rely on social media, turn more to mobile apps, and, ultimately, recognize that they must use multiple communications channels. These are the key findings of a national survey conducted by West Corporation to discover how districts are currently using communications technology for parent engagement, to examine perceived effectiveness of various methods, and to learn about districts’ plans for growth. Complete results of the survey will be released in a SchoolMessenger solutions webinar, “From Apps to Announcements: Increasing School-Parent Engagement With Communications Technology,” on June 1 at 11 a.m. Pacific/2 p.m. Eastern.

Hundreds of West’s district-level customers, reflecting the national mix of district sizes and settings, completed the online survey. Respondents included district leadership such as superintendents, technology directors, communications officers, and those with similar titles and roles.

Among the top three findings of the survey is, overall, district use of mobile apps to build parent engagement is increasing. Districts plan a 44 percent increase in the emphasis they put on the use of mobile apps over the next one-to-three years. Yet, in contrast, they expressed concern about the impact on parents and guardians of the proliferation of communications apps from various sources.

In addition, districts believe that for maximum engagement, they must use multiple channels. Broadcast voice notification remains important as a method, likely in part because 45 percent of respondents also report that parent internet access is a significant obstacle to using technology to better engage parents.

Finally, use of social media as a parent engagement channel is very strong now and appears that it will remain so. Districts say they will make social media a top communications technology priority for investment of time and resources over the next one-to-three years. Generally, a majority of respondents perceive two-way communications with parents (such as social media posts with responses) as more effective for engagement than one-way communication.

The webinar, which is open to SchoolMessenger solutions customers and other professionals responsible for school communications, will feature Elisabeth O'Bryon, Ph.D., co-founder and head of research of Family Engagement Lab, a nonprofit subsidiary of GreatSchools, Inc., whose mission is to help schools ignite the power of millions of families to support learning, and Frank Catalano, vice president of West’s Education group and the study’s primary author.

Dr. O’Bryon was previously a postdoctoral research associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and most recently the director of research and evaluation at GreatSchools, where she assessed the effectiveness of digital information strategies for preK-12 families. 

“We know that when families engage with school, children succeed,” said Dr. O’Bryon. “Our research shows that parents want to receive information from the school about how their child is doing academically, the key skills they are supposed to learn and strategies for supporting their child’s learning. Unfortunately, 32 percent of parents are less than satisfied with the information communicated by their schools. The good news is that, when used appropriately, the digital communications technologies explored in West’s survey have the potential to help schools meaningfully boost their family engagement efforts.”

West’s Catalano added, “Our survey demonstrates that not one size, or one method, fits all for using communications technologies to engage parents. However, with the wide range of communications technologies available today to school districts, selecting what best meet the unique needs of a district’s community can be a multiple-choice answer.”

Participants in the webinar will receive a white paper exploring the survey results in depth.

To register for the June 1 webinar, visit http://bit.ly/Jun2017SMWebinar.

About West (SchoolMessenger Solutions)

West Corporation is the trusted provider of SchoolMessenger solutions. Thousands of schools and other educational institutions in all 50 states and Canada depend on SchoolMessenger products and services. From notifications and websites to custom mobile apps and social media, school leaders have relied on the SchoolMessenger platform since 1999 to engage with their communities in multiple languages and on any device. To learn more about SchoolMessenger products, visit www.schoolmessenger.com or call 888.527.5225.

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