Parents tell us what they want, need in communications

April 18, 2018
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According to a recent survey, the majority of Stillwater Area Public Schools parent respondents feel teachers, schools and the district are doing a good job of communicating with families. A total of 930 respondents took part in the Parent Communication Survey and provided us with feedback on what is working and what isn’t working with communications across our district.

The survey was broken into three parts: Classroom Communication, School Communication and District Communication. In each area, parents had the opportunity to respond to specific questions as well as provide additional comments and feedback.

We’ve just begun the work of digging through the results, reading all of the responses, and analyzing the data. Here’s what we’ve learned thus far:

Classroom Communication:

  • While 67 percent of parents felt their child’s teacher communicates “just right,” about 31 percent indicated they’d like more communication from their child’s teacher. Specifically, parents asked for more updates on how well their child is doing in school, timely notices when their child’s performance is slipping, and tips and ideas of how they can support their child’s learning at home.
  • Parents commented that they’d like to have more opportunities for face-to-face conversations with teachers, and would appreciate more personal forms of communication about their child such as notes and phone calls.
  • Consistency in communication methods was a top theme that emerged from parent comments. Parents requested that schools streamline the number of communication tools available to make it easier to keep track of where information is coming from.
  • Report cards and parent teacher conferences were identified as the most helpful ways for parents to find out about their child’s performance. Skyward was also identified by families as being somewhat helpful or helpful in providing information about performance, especially by parents of middle and high school students.
  • Email, Skyward, and classroom newsletters were listed as the most preferred methods of communication.

School Communication:

  • Nearly three out of four parents indicated their child’s school communicates “just right” with families. Weekly e-newsletters and the school website were listed as the most helpful in finding information about the school.
  • The majority of respondents said they’d like to receive more information about issues affecting the school, updates about curriculum and education programs, and an up-to-date calendar of events.
  • Email and school e-newsletters are the most preferred way to receive information about the school, followed by text messages and automated phone calls.

District Communication:

  • Nearly 67 percent of respondents said the district communications “about right,” while 31 percent said the district doesn’t communicate enough. Respondents indicated they are most interested in receiving information about issues affecting the district, updates about curriculum and education programs, and an up-to-date calendar of events.
  • Parents commented that they’d like more open and honest information about issues facing the district, as well as more details about important decisions facing district leaders.
  • More than 97 percent of respondents ranked email as the most helpful method to share information. Automated phone messages, the Pony e-Newsletter, district website and text messaging rounded out the remaining top five most helpful methods.
  • The vast majority of respondents (more than 70 percent) reported they have never attended a district meeting or event. The most common reason was the timing of the event. Many respondents commented that busy schedules prevent them from attending district meetings, while others stated they were often unaware of meetings taking place.

Next Steps:

We’ve heard you! Here are just a few of the things we’ve started to implement right away based on your feedback:

  • More stories about issues facing the district, as well as details about topics being discussed by the school board. Sign up for our Pony e-newsletter or visit the new District Discussions section of our website for updates.
  • More information about what we’re doing to support students and keep our schools safe. Watch for the newest Community Connections newsletter to arrive in your mailbox in the coming days and read up on our Safe and Caring Schools.

Over the next several months we’ll be sharing the survey data with our teachers, principals and district leaders to help develop strategies for improving communication with families. Here are some of the things we’re already considering for next year:

  • Working with teachers and school staff to streamline the many ways we communicate.
  • Providing a single sign-in portal for parents and students to access things like their learning environments and assessment data with one login.
  • Sharing previews and updates from school board meetings.
  • Providing more opportunities for you to weigh in with your ideas and feedback on district issues, both in-person and online.
  • Making district meetings and events more accessible to parents, such as holding them at different times of day or expanding opportunities for people to participate online through forums, webinars or other interactive tools.

Watch for more information as we begin a new school year in the fall, and as always, don’t hesitate to reach out to us with additional ideas. Just send a note to comments@stillwaterschools.org.