Family engagement has a significant impact on a child’s interest in school and their academic success. However, families often have a lot on their plates. In other cases, they may not know how to get involved.
Communication, whether in person, on paper, or digital, is key for building the connections necessary for parents and guardians to get—and stay—engaged with their children’s school and education.
Of course, not every form of communication will get the same results. A school could put up posters in every hallway and not get any parents signed up to attend conferences. Timing, location, and content are key. To improve engagement, schools and districts need to communicate in the same way their families and students do.
For this, text message notifications are the obvious choice. They’re an easy and widely adopted method to keep parents and caregivers up to date about what’s going on at school and how they can get involved.
Family engagement occurs when parents, guardians, and caregivers feel included and take part in decisions, activities, and programs that foster their children’s personal and educational development. Family engagement requires strong relationships between schools and homes so that everyone involved is on the same page about expectations and goals.
Over the years, research has shown that when family engagement is high, attendance rates increase, students develop better social skills, academic performance improves, and graduation rates increase overall.
Along with these outcomes, parents and guardians who are engaged with their children’s learning tend to:
Texting is an essential part of most people’s lives. About 97% of Americans own a text-capable mobile phone, and this widespread adoption can be leveraged to encourage family engagement and enhance connections between educators, students, and their families.
Evidence shows that text messages can boost family engagement and, in turn, improve performance and test scores. Text messaging that delivers timely announcements and helpful information can drive behavioral and academic improvements. In particular, pilot tests of literacy-related texts to parents have helped increase reading exam scores.
Many parents and caregivers want to help their children with class topics and homework but don’t feel that they can. For example, math is now taught differently in schools from how most adults were taught. Or, parents and caregivers may have completed their education in a language other than English. In these examples, adults may lack the tools to review and practice material with their children in a way that reinforces what they learn in class.
Texting families about school learning can help address this issue. In one study, text notifications about math helped families that had little or no experience in explaining concepts. After receiving these texts in their primary languages, the families reported being able to work with their children on math homework. They also got better at building on the assignments and discussing them in meaningful and personally relevant ways.
The positive effects of text message notifications can also reach families from marginalized populations and households where English isn’t the primary language. These groups often feel disconnected from schools, and students are more likely to struggle academically as well.
In one case study of a Louisiana school, teachers sent underserved families weekly texts with prompts for at-home activities and saw engagement levels increase. Many of the parents and caregivers discussed the activity prompts with their children, and the school reported that the text message notifications helped boost students’ learning.
Did you know that users can send and receive texts in their preferred language with Remind? Learn more about two-way text translation here.
For schools and districts, however, adopting texting for the entire community isn’t as simple as picking up the phone and composing a quick message. At Leon County Schools in Florida, administrators realized that texting via personal devices posed a potential risk for the district. If the district were ever subject to a public records request, they wouldn’t be able to produce employee texts messages.
To implement text messaging across a school or district community, it’s important to use a service designed specifically for educational contexts. This includes:
A texting platform designed for education will also include time-saving workflows for administrators and educators, including the ability to roster with a student information, set availability, schedule text messages in advance, and send urgent alerts.
Even though texting is often seen as a more casual form of interaction, text messaging for school should follow the same policies and codes of conduct that apply to other types of communication.
It’s always helpful to train teachers and staff on how to craft and send text messages for different situations. Along with encouraging engagement and other desired outcomes, thoughtful texts can help model safe, healthy, and professional communication for the families and students who receive them.
When composing texts, here are a few useful guidelines to keep in mind:
Along with targeted interventions like the studies described earlier, here are some teacher-tested tips for incorporating text messaging into your community’s family outreach strategy.
Many households have unpredictable or busy routines. Daily announcements, affirmations, and reminders through text can help families focus and get children started on the right foot each day.
The easier and more convenient it is for parents and caregivers to get involved, the more likely it is that they will. For busy households, it can be easy to forget about scheduling homework time or what students are focusing on in class.
To help families out, administrators can ask or encourage teachers to send short messages to provide prompts and start engaging conversations at home. Here are some examples:
Teachers don’t need a lesson-based reason to send text notifications to families. Sometimes, it’s good to send a “wellness check” to touch base, especially to families struggling with issues that can interfere with academics. Teachers, counselors, and administrators can all work together to keep in touch.
Schools can encourage such text messages to let families know that someone cares about their child’s well-being, not just their grades. Here are examples of text message notifications that can make a difference:
Parents and caregivers need to have the opportunity to ask questions for more information to get clarification after getting a text. Sometimes, simple text message notifications can turn into meaningful two-way communication that fuels family engagement.
To write messages that stoke interest and invite responses, teachers can follow guidelines like asking questions that are easy to respond to, avoiding simple yes-or-no questions, and using a warm and friendly tone. For example, an inviting text message can say:
When family members do respond to text messages, expressing appreciation and enthusiasm to provide positive reinforcement—and encourage them to stay engaged in the future as well.
Interested in implementing two-way texting in your family engagement strategy? Remind Hub provides schools and districts with an integrated communication platform designed specifically for education. Learn more at remind.com/hub.