This blog post was originally published on Medium. Check out the excerpt below, or click here to read the full post.

I have been working in K-12 communications my entire career. I have seen districts that do it well and those that struggle. What I’ve noticed is that it matters…A LOT.

“The most powerful “innovation” contributing to students’ success is support from caring adults in schools. Young people told us they need an anchor, someone whom they can trust to be a stable presence in their lives. Even better is a web of supportive adults and peers to help them navigate their way through life’s challenges and toward graduation and a successful adulthood.” — General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.), Founding Chair, America’s Promise Alliance.

A culture of education

A “web of supportive adults and peers” doesn’t just happen. It takes work, but it has a tremendous impact. It has such a big impact because a web of supportive adults and peers could also be classified as the culture around a student. More important than great teachers or technology, they are the constant reminders to today’s students that their education matters. This can come from teachers, but it also needs to come from friends, family and the community.

Chart for custom calls effect on attendance calls for high school

The more custom calls per student, the fewer attendance violation calls, meaning fewer absences and tardies. 2012 survey data from over 20 districts and 300 schools.

So can school communications actually make a difference? Yes. To the left is a graph comparing messages sent home to students vs. their attendance. You can see the correlation between these communications home and better student attendance.

This improvement isn’t because parents just got a phone call. It is because they were aware of what else was going on with their student’s education besides just grades, assignment, behavior and attendance. When parents and community members are involved in non-academic events of students and their schools, they are also more involved in the academic parts of their lives. And this is where communications creating a culture of parental engagement becomes so important.

Parents don’t usually get to see the day to day work of teachers and students. But they can go to assemblies, sporting events, fundraisers and festivals. And with attendance at each of these events, their connection to the school and and the vision of education grow. When they are asked by their student to help with their homework, to donate to help buy equipment, or to follow up on possible bad behavior they are much more likely when they have connected with the school and its vision.

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