Sep 24, 2018

What's the Best Solution for Parent-Teacher Communication?

How do teachers at your school keep students and families up-to-date? A growing number of teachers are maintaining public webpages and signing up for freemium notification systems to keep everyone informed about homework, testing schedules and class events. 

Many school and district leaders are content to let their teachers make individual choices about webpages, notifications and other methods of home-school communication. But this approach can lead to a patchwork of apps, websites and notification services that is confusing for families and burdensome for teachers. A single platform that keeps everything in one place is easier for both parents and staff to manage. Here are some best practices to keep in mind. 

Class Webpages: A Central Gathering Place for Class Communication 

great teacher class page serves as the basis for strong home-school communication. The class webpage gives teachers a place to post class information, helpful resources for parents and students, reminders about expectations, and current class news and events. It gathers all the important information about the class in one place where students and parents can easily find it. 

A good class webpage may take some effort to set up initially, but will save teachers time and reduce aggravation in the long run. Instead of responding to dozens of emails asking for class schedules, homework due dates, and copies of reference documents, teachers can direct parents and students to check the class page first. 

To be effective, the class page needs to be easy to find, accessible, and understandable. That means: 

  • One platform: Class pages should be all on the same platform and linked to the school webpage. When teachers set up their own pages outside the school's main website platform, parents have to remember how to find each individual teacher's page. For families with multiple children who have multiple teachers each, this can be an overwhelming task. The class page is more likely to be used when parents and students can find each page in a class directory on the school website. 

  • Aggregated: A really helpful class page system recognizes a student or parent, collects all of that student or parent’s classes on one dashboard page, and creates a single calendar with all relevant events (a soccer game, test, PTA meeting, or rehearsal) and sends an email with a digest of updates on daily basis.

  • Accessible: The information on the class page should be accessible to people with disabilities in compliance with ADA and Section 508 requirements. Make sure the platform you are using has supports built in for people using screen readers or other assistive technology. Schools should also provide teachers with guidance on making posted content more accessible for people with disabilities, such as avoiding the use of non-accessible PDFs.

  • Consistent: Consider providing teachers with a basic template for their webpage and some guidance on the types of content they should be posting. That way parents know what they can expect to find on each class page and where they should look for it. 

  • Distributed: Keeping up with content for all of the class pages is too much for a single web administrator, so teachers need access and permissions that allow them to manage their own pages. Give teachers control of their pages within the basic template. Teachers need some room for creativity in the pictures and content they post, and should feel they have ownership of their pages.  

The eChalk class page tool provides a single platform for all teachers in a school to use, aggregates information for each student and parent onto a single dashboard and calendar, and allows teachers to easily create 508 compliant pages.

Notifications: Meeting Parents Where They Are

Adding a notification system to your home-school communication strategy puts important news right on everyone's mobile devices, so they don't have to come to your website to find it. Mobile notifications are great for timely alerts and information that students or families need to take action on. 

Many teachers are using freemium notification systems such as Remind to send out quick alerts and reminders. While these services are easy to set up and use, using freemium notification systems can have its downsides, too. 

  • If teachers are using different systems, parents must download and use multiple apps or sign up for multiple SMS services. 

  • Notifications and reminders can quickly get buried by new information coming in and are hard to go back and refer to later.

  • Free/independent services don’t give the school and control or oversight over teacher/student and teacher/parent communication.

  • If teachers are also maintaining a public website and there is no integration between the two, it can mean double the work to keep both the class page and the notification system updated. 

eChalk Notify offers a new approach to school notifications. Notify is fully integrated with eChalk's websites and class and group pages, so teachers and web administrators can keep their public pages up to date and send alerts out to students and families on the same platform with just one step. This means: 

  • Parents can always come back to the public class page (or, in eChalk, the private class intranet) to find a central repository of prior announcements, calendars, information and resources. 

  • Students and families just have one app do download to keep up with news, events, emergency alerts, and information from their school, district, and all of the individual classes and groups they belong to.  

Giving teachers control over their own public class webpages and notifications is affordable, too. Adding teacher accounts to an eChalk website subscription costs as little as $1-2 per teacher per year. 

Are you looking for an easier approach to teacher class pages and notifications? Contact us to see eChalk and eChalk Notify in action.