ST. LOUIS, MO., Aug. 6, 2009 - In an age where instant communication is the norm, the ability to immediately alert staff and parents about emergency situations on school campuses has become increasingly common. Yet, a survey conducted recently by SchoolReach, one of the fastest-growing parent notification services used by public, private and parochial schools in the United States, shows that many schools and districts are finding a much greater need for helpful, non-emergency communication between school and home. This need has led a growing number of districts to purchase mass notification systems, with an increased level of communications in mind.
"Many districts over the past five years have installed emergency notification systems for those rare disaster situations," said Paul Langhorst, vice president of operations at GroupCast, SchoolReach's parent company. "But more and more administrators are finding that parents appreciate being notified and reminded of regular day-to-day events such as parent teacher conferences or when important paperwork has been sent home with their children. In our discussions with school administrators, it's solutions like ours that are making the difference in getting parents more involved in their children's education."
Current research validates the belief that increased parental involvement leads to increased student success. A study by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory confirmed: students with involved parents are more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades, and have better social skills. The report also showed that students with informed and involved parents are more likely to continue on to post-secondary education.
"Most vendors of mass notification systems do not address the greater need districts face in connecting parents and schools regarding day-to-day activities. Instead, they focus on crisis communications exclusively, which thankfully are rarely, if ever, needed," said Langhorst.
For the SchoolReach survey, administrators at both public and Parochial schools were asked about 'most often' uses of the parental notification system; how does the use of the SchoolReach make life easier; and how does the district or school evaluate the ongoing success of their notification system as a communications solution. Their responses supported the broader theme of regular communication enhances parental involvement.
"Parents have such busy lives that they forget about school meetings," said Anne Graham from St. John's School in Howell, Michigan. "SchoolReach helps me stay in touch with parents and draw greater attendance at school meeting and activities. In fact, the last two meetings that I used the SchoolReach system to send recorded reminders, I had 100 percent attendance. It really helps me with my job in staying connected to parents, and it helps them stay engaged in their children's program."
"We knew SchoolReach was going to make a difference in our school-to-home communications efforts, but the results have really been great," said Linda Abbott, federal coordinator, Booneville Public Schools in Booneville, Arkansas. "We see a stronger partnership, a collective sense of responsibility being forged with parents and our staff, and we believe the results will have a positive affect on student learning."
The SchoolReach system is web-based, requiring no additional hardware or phone lines for schools to install. It also offers customizable features, giving administrators the ability to automate absentee notices, make multi-language recordings, and launch phone-delivered parent polls and surveys.
Other survey respondents referenced the system's ability to help save time and money. Bynum ISD (Hill County, TX) began using the SchoolReach instant notification system in 2008. Prior to SchoolReach, the district would send progress reports or report cards every three weeks to every student's family at a cost of $700 per mailing. Today the district sends reports home with students but uses the SchoolReach system to notify and remind parents to look for them. The cost savings for this one use is over $6,000 a year.
"In this economy school districts, like many corporations around the country, are being pressured to save money," said Bynum Superintendent Brenda Speer. "By thinking outside the box and about how we use our SchoolReach communications solution we were able to instantly save money and leverage a greater return on our investment. This leaves us with additional financial resources to fund key educational programs, expand our offerings, or even purchase new technology."
"It is difficulty to quantify the monetary savings, but it saves us time, which is money, and provides great "goodwill" which is a very valuable asset, as well," Randy G. Rivers, superintendent, Bluestem USD 205 in Leon, Kansas.
ABOUT GROUPCAST AND SCHOOLREACH
GroupCast is a St. Louis-based instant messaging notification service, delivering automated messages via three platforms: voice, email, and text messaging. SchoolReach, a subsidiary of GroupCast, is the nation's leading parent notification service among private schools, and the fastest-growing communications service used by public schools. More information about GroupCast or SchoolReach can be found at www.groupcast.com and www.schoolreach.com or by calling 800-420-1479.