Districts turn to mobile apps and social media to engage parents, survey says


School districts nationwide are turning increasingly to mobile apps and social media over the next three years to communicate with parents, according to a national survey released on Tuesday.

Schools continue to rely on multiple channels of communication, with two in three districts using five or more methods to engage with parents, according to data from West Corp., a provider of messaging technologies.

However, 86 percent of districts polled said they use social media to communicate with parents, making it the dominant way they engage with parents. And districts said they plan to give high priority to investing social media channels over the next one-to-three years.

The emphasis on social media reflects a shift toward two-way communication with parents, according to survey responses.

The online survey also found that one-third of districts reported plans to increase their focus on the developing mobile apps by an average of 44 percent in the near future.

Districts, however, continue to believe that employing multiple channels of communication, such as broadcast voice notification, remains essential because not all parents have easy internet access, the study found.

“Our survey demonstrates that not one size, or one method, fits all for using communications technologies to engage parents,” vice president of West’s Education Group and primary survey author Frank Catalano said in a press statement.

“We know that when families engage with school, children succeed,” said Elisabeth O’Bryon, co-founder and head of research of Family Engagement Lab, a nonprofit subsidiary of GreatSchools, Inc. “Unfortunately, 32 percent of parents are less than satisfied with the information communicated by their schools.

“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.”

Cassandra Stephenson contributed to this report.