What is the quickest path to a better school climate?

According to a study from UChicago's Consortium for School Research, 'School Climate' is one of the three top predictors of academic improvement.  

As Elaine Allensworth, co-author of the survey, states: "A lot of educators think school climate is something you work on and take care of so you can get to the real work of teaching and learning, but what we find is learning is inherently social and emotional. If students don't feel safe and engaged, they aren't learning".  

So, what is the quickest path to a better school climate?

Community relationships are built on communication.

Better communication and increased responsiveness lead to greater trust and in turn stronger relationships with families.   A fresh survey from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) stresses the need for a strategic communications plan in reaching out to parents.  NSPRA's survey includes 50 of its member districts and focuses on learning their parents' communications preferences.  The survey detailed the impact of school districts' communication with communities (many of NSPRA's members are district communications officials).  

As NSPRA President Ron Koehler points out, "The backpack folder is no longer the primary source of information for parents. They want and prefer instant electronic information. ... [T]he data demonstrates parents and non-parents alike turn to the web when they need information, and they want it now."  

So how can a school or district become so much more responsive to parents' communications needs?

The short answer: addressing parents' priority information needs in real time.

Their priorities include:

  • News on their child's progress or insight on how they improve
  • Timely notice when performance is slipping
  • Updates on what their child is expected to learn during this year
  • Homework and grading policies
  • Info on behavior (including how their child gets along with others)
  • Curriculum descriptions and information on instructional programs  
  • A calendar of events and meetings
  • News on student safety
  • Educational program changes and updates, curriculum updates, and changes in instructional programs.    

More often than not schools and districts already offer this information.

The crucial insight from the survey is how parents want this information delivered; namely instantly and seamlessly.

They do not want to go searching for this information:

  1. Most parents would like district updates instantly -namely as often as decisions are made.
  2. Most parents would like updates delivered where they already spend their time, i.e. social media, email & text messages.