Voice from the Industry
Parent Satisfaction in Private Schools
Gary Falcon, Founder and CEO, Twine — Friday, April 14, 2017
As school choice initiatives have grown in recent years, a new priority has evolved for school administrators. While student success is ultimately the focus and mission for all schools, many are looking more closely at parent satisfaction as a critical driver for school success. Nowhere is this trend more intentional than in private school environments, where parent satisfaction is one key to competing successfully and maintaining student enrollment in increasingly crowded markets.
Private school parents are frequently cited as more satisfied with the schools their children attend, but what makes them happier than their charter or public school counterparts? According to the Council for American Private Education and a study conducted by Education Next, parents consistently reported higher satisfaction levels when considering school characteristics such as discipline, teacher quality, achievement expectations, safety, and instruction of values. On average, private school parents are 17 percentage points more satisfied than parents of children in charter schools and 30 percentage points more than parents in public school districts.
While smaller class sizes, improved learning environments, and more individual attention for students are all characteristics parents hold in high regard, there’s one asset that is frequently underutilized as a tool used to build parent satisfaction and trust—technology. Technology touches every aspect of our lives, and we’re beyond the point where students and teachers should be the exclusive users of classroom technology. Today, parents are connected more than ever before (usually as much or more than their children), and they have increasingly high expectations about the frequency and quality of interactions with teachers and school administrators.
A well-designed learning management system (LMS), for instance, has all the features needed to share information and engage in conversations that matter to parents about their children. With teachers open to managing classroom tasks and daily communications in an LMS, it is a small step to provide access and encourage parents to engage with the school online, too. Combined with online announcements, discussion, and access to staff, these systems become a great way to build meaningful school/family relationships and can be used to attract and retain families if used correctly.
When deploying new technologies, consider what parents value the most and develop a strategy that incorporates those values into the tools that parents will consistently use. In a private school setting, consider the following values to increase parent satisfaction:
Happy parents value communication
Many smaller private and charter schools draw parents with the expectation that there will be close engagement and communication between teachers and parents. Parents often choose a smaller school setting because the level of communication tends to be higher than in traditional public school settings. There’s an expectation among parents that they will hear about what is happening in class on a day-to-day basis. Ideally, this includes both general class information and also specific feedback on how their child is doing. An LMS makes it easier and faster to communicate with parents. Online discussions, mobile messaging apps, and email make it possible for teachers to connect and respond with parents and can streamline interactions from the school to keep the line of communication open. Parents appreciate timely and frequent updates – even if they’re brief.
Happy parents value transparency
It’s inevitable that parents will eventually ask their child the classic questions about school. “What did you learn at school today? What grade did you get on your science test? When is your history project due?” to list a few. For some parents, it can be difficult to manage work schedules and find time to play an active role in the education process. Technology can open up a window into the classroom through which parents can see what’s happening with grades, assignments, attendance, and more. In an era of transparency and active parents, teachers and administrators are reminded daily how important it is to involve and inform parents of day-to-day school activities.
Happy parents value community
Whether virtually or in-person, parents want to be invited into the education community so they can play an active role in their child’s education. Knowing there is an open door—and an easy way to reach teachers and administrators through a dedicated system that parents are encouraged to use—sets a tone of cooperation and support.
The best LMS platforms today are adopting features that resemble online communities similar to social media channels like Facebook. Rather than simply providing a place for students and parents to log in and download classroom materials, schools can create a space that encourages parents to sign in, share ideas, and engage with staff. Some schools have taken this a step further opening up a space for questions and reflection where parents can share their insights and connect with other parents to share experiences and help one another.
Using existing and adapting to new education technology is foundational to supporting school management, teaching, student learning, and exceeding parent expectations. Smaller schools benefit greatly from services that keep parents happy, engage students in the environments native to them, and ensure that navigating technology is easy for a school’s stakeholders and community.
Gary Falcon is the founder and CEO of Twine, an LMS built specifically for the needs of small to medium private and charter schools. To learn more about Twine, visit www.choosetwine.com.