In recent years, all schools in Connecticut have been required to administer annual school climate surveys that request feedback on perceptions as they relate to school safety and climate. While the overall responses were extremely favorable in the school climate survey, we noticed a dissatisfaction in our communication with families. As a result, we decided to administer a follow-up survey to parents and students in the fall of 2015 and asked specific questions on the quality of communication they are receiving from E.O. Smith. Overall, at least one response was submitted from 319 households out of a possible 1,000. While this is an acceptable response rate to draw conclusions, our hope is to increase the responses from families as we continue to routinely elicit their feedback. I have included a summary of the survey results that support the need for better communication from E.O. Smith to its families.
How do parents currently feel about communication and sharing of information and what methods do they use to access it?
Parents of EO Smith students are "somewhat satisfied" (43%) and very satisfied (28.5%) with effort to keep them informed. Responses show parents overwhelmingly use the website (66%) as the first place they start when pursuing an answer to a question. Failing to find the information they need there, they turn to their son or daughter (20%), and then call the school (9%). The order in which they look for information, is website (49%), son or daughter (43%), email (43%), and then call the school (35%). In terms of accessing the media, more parents use Facebook for information than the Hartford Courant and are in a statistical tie with the Willimantic Chronicle. EO Smith launched its Facebook page this past June at graduation and has just begun to realize the benefits of the social media tool. A large number (40%) of parents and guardians are unaware EO Smith is using social media. With 11% following on Facebook and 4% following on Twitter. We are hopeful as the number of parents become aware of the social media tools EO is using, the school should see a rise in usage.
What do parents and guardians want?
Parents are looking for improvement in communications efforts from school to home. While 47% say the current communication methods used are somewhat effective, the percentage that describe these methods as less than effective (22%) and not effective (3%) is nearly equal to those who feel EO's resources are very effective (27%). Responses also show us that 75% of parents have at least some difficulty in accessing the information they need. Parent responses indicate that routine updates from the school would go a long way to improving communications as 37.9 % ask for a weekly update, and 47.6% ask for an update as often as decisions are being considered.
So what do parents and guardians prefer?
Parent responses show they prefer email blasts of news and information, information on the school website, and automated school to home phone calls/SMS text messages, followed by direct mail, and Facebook as the tools for E.O. Smith officials to use in updating them on news and information. A deeper look shows us that parents and guardians find calendar events most important (80%) followed by school wide news and achievements (36%], and student news (25%).
What is planned for the future?
More opportunities for feedback. In addition to the communication survey, this school year, we began requesting feedback from student athletes and their parents at the conclusion of each season. Emails with links sent directly to each student athlete and their parents request they provide feedback on the specific sports team and the athletic program in general. Plans to expand to co-curricular activities at the conclusion of the school year are also in progress.
As we noticed with the communication survey, general feedback is valuable as it allows us to target areas in need of improvement. Overall, our goal is to continually improve the overall E.O. Smith experience. To do this, we must establish a school-community culture that supports the growth mindset. It is my hope, this article and accompanying video will demonstrate E.O. Smith's intention to establish an open and healthy school-community partnership that uses constructive feedback to empower our students and parents to be a part of our growth.