Alert Solutions Blog

Old VS. New: Why K-12 Teachers Should Embrace EdTech

Posted by Nina Caliri on Thu, May 23, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

As technology continues to evolve and develop, it’s steadily taking over the K-12 education space. Although new edtech is designed to help and assist teachers with tasks in and out of the classroom, some teachers are still on the fence.  Why is there so much resistance among teachers when it comes to new educational technology, or edtech?

EdTech - Education Technology

The Ed Advocate says there are many anti-tech teachers due to the power of tradition. A teacher-centered approach in which K-12 teachers are sharing their wisdom with their students and classrooms, engaging the class, and motivating them to be the best they can is the more traditional way to teach.  Now education is changing to more of a student-centered approach instead. The Ed Advocate explains, “In the student-centered approach to education, the teacher serves as a guide who facilitates the learning process, instead of seeking to control it.” Teachers can utilize edtech to help facilitate the student-centered approach to teaching.

Another key reason teachers haven’t completely embraced edtech is because of the lack of training on the different technologies that could help them. Older generations of teachers simply did not have access to the newer edtech that is out there, and even the younger generations are not fully trained on how edtech can help them in the classroom.

Edtech …Out With the Old, In With the New

  • Traditional Attendance Calls vs. Automated Attendance Alerts
    Chronic absenteeism and truancy are plaguing K-12 schools and districts across the country. Each day school administrators are calling parents to report their children are absent, taking up valuable time that could easily be used on other administrative tasks. Introducing Automated Attendance Alert edtech! With automated attendance alerts educators don’t have to worry about calling home as the alert is sent automatically to parents or guardians using their preferred communication method through a school notification platform. This is more efficient than manually calling parents, allows for accurate attendance reporting, and saves staff hours of time.

  • Parent-Teacher Meetings vs. Video Conferences & Calls
    Nowadays there are a high number of working parents who may not be able to attend parent-teacher meetings due to busy schedules, travels, and meetings. By using digital tools such as Skype or Google Hangout teachers can set up video conferences to ensure good parental involvement and parent engagement without parents without having to rearrange their work schedule.

  • Sending Home Paper Information vs. Digitally Sending Information
    Sending students home with field trip approval slips and announcements is not always the most efficient way to get information into the hands of a parent or guardian. Edtech school notification platforms are a great way to communicate important information with parents and ensure they receive it. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers to communicate more effectively with parents and improve parent engagement and response. With secure document delivery, teachers can also automatically email report cards, progress reports, transcripts, and more to student families. This again ensures delivery with real-time reporting, reduces risk of message interception by students, and also reduces paper, ink, and mailing costs.

  • Snow Days vs. Digital Learning Days
    For those living in areas in the U.S. with harsh winters, snow days can take a toll on learning opportunities for students. Even though students may not complain about multiple snow days, edtech is making it possible for some K-12 schools and districts to host ‘digital learning days’ in replacement of the traditional snow day. Anderson School District 5 in South Carolina was selected to be a part of an eLearning pilot program. This program allows students to access their assignments at home via Google Classroom with Chromebook devices. “At the end of the day, it makes common sense and financial sense to implement this program,” Superintendent Tom Wilson said in a news release. “No longer will we need to run buses mid-June for a makeup day that only a quarter of our students attend.”

  • Reporting Bullying Incidents In-Person vs. Anonymous Tip Lines
    Bullying is a problem every K-12 school wants to eliminate in all classrooms. It’s difficult for teachers to intervene with every single bullying incident that occurs inside and outside their classrooms, and with the growth of cyberbullying it becomes more and more problematic. Utilizing an edtech solution like an anonymous bullying tip line can help! Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying Management platform was designed for schools to help them dramatically reduce school bullying and cyberbullying incidents by allowing students to make reports anonymously.

As technology continues to evolve, Alert Solutions does too. By implementing edtech in your classroom, you could save valuable time, increase parent engagement, and reduce bullying incidents, all while promoting your student-centered teaching approach. There is a lot more educational technology out there. So, teachers… it’s time to embrace edtech!

If you’re interested in any of the edtech tools Alert Solutions has to offer we’d be happy to assist. Please contact us today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, attendance, school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, parent engagement, parent communication, technology trends

Are Active Shooter Drills Going Too Far? 8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, May 16, 2019 @ 08:05 AM

There have a been a shocking number of active shooter incidents across the United States over the last few years, resulting in mass injuries and deaths, many in K-12 schools. It’s heartbreaking to turn on your television or radio to hear of another horrifying incident and young lives lost. School safety and security measures are constantly adapting and growing around the premise of active shooters on a campus. It’s extremely important to continue to perfect an emergency response plan by running active shooter drills, testing your emergency alert system, and educating students and staff on what to do in the case of an active shooter. But how far is too far?

School Security Guard

In Indiana a few teachers came forward to report they were left with welts, bruises, and abrasions after an active shooter drill back in January 2019. They anonymously told IndyStar that for the training teachers were asked by law enforcement “to kneel down against a classroom wall, before being shot across their backs with airsoft guns.” Although all active shooter drills are to educate and inform students and faculty of what to do in an emergency situation involving a shooter, being shot at close range for practice seems to push the limits of some educators. One teacher said, “They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing.’ They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad”.

8 Active Shooter Drill Best Practices

Alice Training Institute released a list of best practices for active shooter drills in collaboration with NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) and NASRO (National Association of School Resource Officers). 

  1. Create a School Safety Team
    Alice Training Institute recommends each K-12 school should create school safety teams made up of an administrator; school mental health professional; school nurse; teachers; security personnel; parents; and students. There should be somebody on this safety team that takes charge in coordinating all school safety efforts, including school safety drills. The leader should also be clear in communicating responsibilities to those on the school safety teams, and identify appropriate emergency preparedness activities for the school.

  2. Conduct an Assessment of the School Community
    It’s important for the school safety teams to identify the types of crises that may occur, and what the current school culture and climate is like. For example, this would include determining if there are high rates of bullying incidents in your K-12 school. Assessing the policies in place for active shooter drills and considering if there should be any additional policies added is also key.
  1. Implement a Cost-Benefit Analysis
    Your school’s cost-benefit analysis should consider financial costs in relation to the likelihood of a particular crisis, and the current knowledge and identified needs of staff & faculty. The cost-benefit analysis should also identify resources, activities, or preparedness trainings that must be replaced or postponed to engage in an active shooter drill.

  2. Tailor Active Shooter Drills to the Context of the School Environment
    Your active shooter drills should take into consideration the following - the primary goal of the drill; the age of students, cognitive and developmental levels of awareness of students; students with physical, sensory, or other disabilities who may require unique instructions; the trust and comfort among staff; optimal timing of the active shooter drill; relationships with law enforcement; and lastly the layout of the school.

  3. Create a Plan of Progression
    Your K-12 school should have a plan of progression that identifies specific goals and objectives for the active shooter drill as well as a timeline and metrics to help determine how the drills are performing, and whether more complex exercises are needed.

  4. Prepare for Logistics of the Active Shooter Drill
    It’s important to keep in mind several factors when running active shooter drills such as students or staff who have experienced previous traumatic events. These individuals may want to be excused during a drill, but must have parental consent to do so. Alice Training Institute also recommends having school mental health professionals available to help.

  5. Develop a Communications Plan
    Having an effective communications plan is important before, during, and after an active shooter drill. It’s important to keep parents, guardians, and the school community informed of when drills are planned. This is easy to do with your school notification platform.

  6. Establish a Long-Term Follow Up Plan
    Schools should establish a long-term follow up plan to support sustainability that considers the following – what additional training is required; how the drill integrates with other school safety efforts; how current and previous training and knowledge can be maintained; and when/ how often a follow-up should be conducted.

For more in depth steps for conducting an active shooter drill at your K-12 school, please see the Alice Training Institute ‘Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills’ report.

One of the important points in active shooter drill best practices includes having a communication plan. At Alert Solutions we help many K-12 schools with their emergency response efforts by providing an award-winning school notification system, SwiftK12.  

SwiftK12 enables administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. In the case of an active shooter situation, seconds count.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Is Your K-12 School Ready?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, May 09, 2019 @ 09:05 AM

This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the 2019 hurricane season is nearly upon us. According to initial hurricane predictions from the Weather Company, this season is expected to be above average “with a total of 14 named storms predicted, seven of which are expected to be hurricanes.” Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive natural disasters, forming over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico throughout hurricane season, which spans from June through November every year.

School Closed Hurricane Preparedness

Last year Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Florida hard in early October. Many K-12 schools and districts were either forced to close down, or were so severely damaged that many couldn’t return to those schools for the remainder of the school year.

The destruction caused many problems for teachers and students. Teachers weren’t sure on how much homework to give students, as many did not have internet access. Dress codes had to be completely dropped, as many families lost all of their belongings including school uniforms. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “A little more than 29,000 students across the district were enrolled in schools on the last day of classes before Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle... Enrollment had dropped by more than 2,600 students, almost 9 percent, districtwide by the Friday before Thanksgiving.” A huge drop due to students either moving away or dropping out of school all together.

K-12 schools must prepare both their faculty and their students before a hurricane or any other severe weather event.

Hurricane Preparedness: Before a Storm

  • Educate Students & Staff
    It’s extremely important to educate both students and staff on the potential threat of a hurricane or other severe weather event. Hurricane preparedness is understanding what could happen in the event of a hurricane and how your school can prepare for the worst.

  • Develop a Plan
    Your K-12 school should have an action plan in place specifically for each natural disaster threat, including a hurricane. Although your school may be closed before a hurricane hits, there are still plans that should be put in place including evacuations, announcements, drills and more.

  • Examine School Layout
    Weather.gov recommends examining the layout of your school to determine potential shelter areas. In the case of a hurricane there are fast winds which could cause structural damage. Getting students to a safe area within school grounds is imperative to their safety. Weather.gov provides the following suggestions for safe spots within your school:
    • Interior, small rooms usually offer the best protection.
    • Offices or bathrooms are usually favored locations.
    • Interior hallways are usually another good option, but avoid getting too close to outside door openings.
    • Avoid exterior class rooms or rooms with many windows.
    • Avoid large span ceiling rooms like gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias.
    • Avoid portable classrooms.

  • Implement a Reliable School Notification Platform
    Keeping everybody updated with open communication is key in the event of a hurricane or any other severe weather event. It’s important to make sure your school notification platform is reliable so school administrators can send alerts to parents, students and staff across multiple channels such as text, email, phone call, and social media, quickly and easily. Our notification system, SwiftK12, is backed by a fully redundant network. SwiftK12 helps K-12 schools reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. When time is of the essence, it’s comforting to have a trustworthy system to help. 

  • Practice, Practice, Practice!
    Once in place it is essential to practice running through your plan to determine if everything would run smoothly in the event of a hurricane. This includes working with students to go through drills, testing your school wide alert system, and making sure any kinks are worked out. gov states “A practice will not only help confirm the validity of your plan and illustrate any deficiencies to be addressed, but can educate your students and staff on proper responses during severe weather.”

Hurricane preparedness should not be taken lightly, especially in K-12 schools and districts. Schools are responsible for staff and student safety, which is why having a plan, determining safe spaces, implementing reliable technology, and practicing your plan is extremely important.

At Alert Solutions we offer a reliable and efficient school notification platform, SwiftK12, which is used across the country and internationally to send out alerts and messages to keep students, staff, and parents safe and informed.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

The Importance of Teacher-Student Relationships in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Mon, May 06, 2019 @ 10:05 AM

Positive Teacher Student RelationshipTeachers who make an effort to foster positive and influential relationships with students make a huge impact on children going through school. Not only are they making students comfortable in their learning environment, studies show supportive teacher-student relationships lead to higher levels of achievement than those students with conflict in their relationships.

If you think back to when you were a student yourself, did you make an effort academically when you loved your teacher? Teachers who treat their students how they want to be treated become ‘popular’ to students, which leads to mutual respect. Keeping the line between student and teacher, but also showing students you’re making a concerted effort, will gain their trust and friendship.

5 Tips to Better Your Teacher-Student Relationship

  1. Get to Know Your Students
    The first thing a teacher should do when building a positive teacher-student relationship is getting to know his or her students. Find out their interests, whether it is a favorite sport, TV show, or school activity. NEA recommends talking to students and listening to what's on their mind: “…they will begin to see that you're not just another adult, but someone who is genuinely interested in them.” It is suggested that you do not have any ‘favorites’, but making an extra effort to build a better teacher-student relationship with children who may be a disciplinary problem doesn’t hurt. This can be done by giving compliments such as, “You did a nice job in class today by raising your hand instead of blurting out when you had ideas to share. Your cooperation in class made it easier for me to teach today. Thanks.”

  2. Protect Your Student’s Self-Esteem
    Adolescents and young adults are fairly vulnerable when in school. Their priority is their social standing and relationships with their peers, which tends to cause students to pull away from adults. For this reason, it’s important to protect your teacher-student relationship by managing discipline in your classroom without an audience. NEA tells us, “Being criticized by a teacher in front of their peers humiliates them. To avoid “losing face”, students may react by talking back, smirking, or walking out of class. They will do whatever it takes to preserve their dignity.” Although it is easier said than done, reacting to student outbursts should be quiet and quick with no sarcasm or condescending comments. If you can react to a problem in a light manner or even with a joke, this can prevent any jabs to a student’s self-esteem and protect your teacher-student relationship.

  3. Appreciate Good Student Habits
    Unfortunately teachers find a lot of their interaction with students at a classroom level is due to disruption. When students are listening well or working quietly, make sure you appreciate that. Addressing the class with compliments is a great way to build teacher-student relationships. NEA provides these examples of positive statements towards a classroom:
    • "It's really great to see all of you start your homework without having to be told.”
    • “I appreciate that you are all working so quietly.”
    • “The bell just rang. I see that everyone is in the right seat. That's great.”
    • “It’s easy to carry on a discussion when people raise their hand and don't interrupt others. I appreciate that.”
    • “You're a great class; I enjoy being your teacher.” 

  4. Listen to Your Students
    Being open to receiving feedback from your students is a good quality to have as a teacher, as students like to feel as though they have some influence in what goes on in class. It can also lead to a respectful teacher-student relationship. Topics that could be up for discussion with students include school policies, assignments, and grades. Taking the time to listen to your students’ concerns and ideas shows them that you care and value their thoughts.

  5. Work on Your Teacher-Parent Relationship
    Having a good teacher-student relationship is great, but having parents and guardians on board as well is extremely helpful in fostering student success. Engaging parents in their child’s education often encourages better grades, higher test scores, reduced rates of substance abuse and better social skills. One way to do this is having open lines of communication with parents, which can be done easily with the help of your school notification system.

With these 5 helpful tips, you’re well on your way to creating incredible teacher-student relationships.

Alert Solution’s proudly works with many incredible K-12 teachers across the country and internationally. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, helps foster positive teacher-parent relationships, as well as teacher-student relationships.  

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement

A Round Up of Our Favorite K-12 School Cancellation Announcements

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

There is nothing like waking up on a cold snowy morning to the news that school is closed for the day. You get to sleep in, play with friends, and not worry about the dreaded pop quizzes and homework assignments that were due. Students look forward to these days every winter!

Cancelling school is always a tricky decision, as school administrators don’t want students to miss out on precious learning time. It can also be a burden for working parents who need to find last-minute child care or have to stay home from work. Some students also rely on school for regular meals. With that being said, student and faculty safety must always come first. You don’t want to risk the lives of the community by not closing the school’s doors for a day or two.

Students and parents may receive a phone call, a text, or maybe something a little different. Superintendents, principals, and teachers are getting more and more creative with their announcements to the school community. As the weather warms up, we want to take a look back at some of the hilarious school cancellation videos from across the country.

Our Favorite School Cancellation Videos

  1. Swartz Creek Community Schools – Michigan


    This hysterical superintendent and high school principal duo, Ben Mainka and Jim Kitchen, announced their school cancellation to the tune of “Hallelujah”. With thousands of views, their entertaining video quickly went viral. We must add… they have great voices! Alert Solutions is looking forward to another school cancellation song from them next winter.

  2. Pontotoc County School District - Mississippi


    This high school principal, Jim Matthews, posted this incredible twist on 50 Cent’s hit “In Da Club” and graced the Pontotoc community with “It’s a Snow Day”. Ending the school cancellation with a peace sign, this amazing video got hundreds of thousands of views.

  3. Durham Academy – North Carolina



    An oldie, but a goodie! This head of school and assistant head of school, Michael Ulku-Steiner and Lee Hark, announced there would be no school for Durham Academy due to “ice ice baby”! A clever school announcement that has over 5 million views on YouTube.

  4. Moses Brown School – Rhode Island



    Alert Solutions is proud to be in the same state as this ingenious head teacher at Moses Brown School. His twist on the popular Frozen song “Let it Go” was switched to “School is Closed”. This school cancellation was put together creatively to announce a snow day a few years ago, but is still on our radar as it is so clever!

Although snow storms and severe weather events can surprise K-12 schools and districts across the United States, your school can always prepare a funny announcement in advance and surprise your community when the time comes.

The Alert Solutions school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows school administrators to easily send out texts, calls, and emails in the case of a snow day. The SwiftK12 email notification has the ability to embed videos, which could be a great way to share a clever snow day song. With a great social media integration, teachers can also share funny school cancellations on Facebook and Twitter.

We challenge you to create your own funny school closure announcement and share it with us! Want to learn more about our school notification system? Download our brochure today.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school notifications, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

School Lunch Debt: Can Your Students Afford Lunch?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 @ 11:04 AM

Did you know 100,000 schools and education institutions across the country provide lunch to 30 million students each day? That’s a lot of cafeteria school lunches! According to the National School Lunch Program, of those 30 million students the program estimates as many as 20 million students receive their lunch for free, 2 million pay a reduced price of 40 cents, and 8 million pay the full price. These incredible statistics are shocking to those who don’t often think about school lunch debt.

Some K-12 school districts are reimbursed this school lunch debt by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pays schools for lunch expenditures based on the number of students paying full price, reduced price, or are receiving the meal for free. This only occurs if the schools are part of the federal school lunch program.

School Lunch

Students who are not enrolled in a federally subsidized meal plan at their school typically have accounts in which they put money for school breakfasts and lunches. As with any account, once the money is gone the bills will accumulate. This is where school lunch debt begins. The New Food Academy tells us, “…that (school lunch) debt accrual puts an increasing burden on schools that bear it, sometimes to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single district. In late December, The Washington Post reported that K-12 students in the D.C. area owe a collective $500,000 in unpaid lunch debt for the first semester of the current academic year alone.”

School lunch costs vary by the school district and state, but according to New Food Academy, on average a single meal costs students $2.48 at the elementary school level and $2.74 at the high school level. Although this price doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up for families providing for multiple children. Lunches can be expensive and lead to school lunch debt.

Frances Frost, a mother in Maryland, spoke openly to the Atlantic and talked about the various permission slips, picture day fliers, and field trip notices she receives on a daily basis. She had unfortunately missed the reminder on refilling her daughter’s school lunch account. She says “…the lunch server graciously let Natalie keep her selected hot lunch with a reminder to bring money for her meal account.” This isn’t always the norm.  There have been discussions on how school lunch shaming is happening in some schools and districts, which is when the cafeteria workers refuse a student lunch as they do not have any money in their account.

This “shaming” sometimes subjects children to the embarrassment of returning their lunch due to insufficient funds.  According to The Atlantic, “Last year in Bedford, Kentucky, parents complained and accused the local elementary school of “bullying” after a child’s lunch was confiscated and thrown away in front of her friends for running a negative balance. Dominic Gant, a high-schooler in Dowagiac, Michigan, was left embarrassed and hungry when his lunch was taken and trashed for owing $4.95. A 12-year-old in Dickinson, Texas had his school breakfast dumped over a 30 cent debt…” The stories continue. Although school lunch debts can seriously add up and create a financial burden for school districts, the shaming and bullying of children who owe money should not occur.

Alert Solutions may have a fix for this problem. Our school notification system, SwiftK12, allows administrators to set up automated alerts to go home to parents, including low lunch balance alerts. The  low lunch balance alert feature can automatically send parents an email, voice call or text message with the student’s name and the remaining dollar amount. Parents can also choose their preferred communication method to make sure they receive and read the notification.

With this feature, school administrators can:

  • Set up different fee alerts based on the balance level
  • Reduce manual staff labor, freeing up time
  • Easily recover unpaid balances, restoring a healthier cash flow for your K-12 school district
  • Notify and engage with parents more effectively
  • Cut down on paper costs

Free up staff from the tedious task of fee reminders and effectively recover unpaid balances with this helpful tool. Ready to learn more?

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, lunch balance, power announcement, powerschool, school programs, parent communication

Using Accurate Data to Enhance Your Parent-Teacher Communication Strategy

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Both parents and teachers are a child’s best role models as they grow up and develop into a young adult. For this reason, it’s very important your classroom encourages great positive parent-teacher communication. This communication should be ongoing throughout the school year, whether it’s a quick message home or a scheduled one-on-one meeting.

Keeping parents involved in their child’s education provides a community feeling which benefits both the student and the K-12 school. Positive parent-teacher communication promotes a level of trust between parents and teachers. As a parent you’re trusting your child is in good hands while they are at school, and as a teacher you’re trusting your students are going home to a positive environment. 

Multiple studies show us that engaged parents directly correlates with the following:

  • Students Perform Better in School
    Studies show students earn better grades and higher test scores. They also attend school more regularly and are more likely to pass their classes.
  • Students Have Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Students who have involved parents have reduced rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts compared to students whose parents are not involved.
  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parent involvement often encourages students to interact with their peers. This leads to better social skills and academic outcomes.

Clean Data for Positive Parent-Teacher Communication

Clean Data for Parent-Teacher CommunicationTo help stay on top of your parent-teacher communication, you have a supportive ally: data. According to Education World, “student data helps keep both parents and the community in the loop about how schools are serving its students. Data helps people within the community compare how schools in the area perform compared against each other.” With clean data, you’re not only able to track how students are performing, but you will have up-to-date parent contact information to communicate that performance.

Using an effective school notification platform helps teachers keep parents engaged in their child’s education. Discover the 3 tools below that your school notification system needs to have:

  1. SIS Integration
    School administrators and teachers are always on the lookout for a school notification system that integrates with their current SIS, or student information system. Although the ease of having an integrated notification system sounds good enough to many, having an SIS integration also allows for greater school data accuracy. Having your school data linked with your school notification system ensures that any message an administrator or teacher sends goes to the correct and up-to-date contact information.

  2. Parent Portal
    A parent portal is an extremely useful tool in parent-teacher communication. When sending out important school alerts and notifications, it’s essential the message is being delivered to parents and staff using up-to-date contact information. Allowing parents to view and edit their contact information and review previously sent messages, documents, and files, is a great way to ensure positive parent-teacher communication. A parent portal also allows users to determine which phone number or email address should be contacted based on the type of message, and allows parents to set their preferred communication methods such as text, email, or phone calls.

  3. Multi-Language Translation Tool
    Working in a diverse school often means English is not everybody’s first language. According to the US Census Bureau, minorities will become the majority in 2023 of children under 18. It can be tricky to foster positive parent- teacher communication when navigating language barriers. Fortunately, with a multi-language translation tool teachers are able to reduce miscommunication by accommodating the language needs of parents, staff, and school community members. Knowing which parent or guardian speaks a different language is important data that will help foster a good relationship between teachers and parents.

The above tools help school administrators and teachers utilize their clean data to nurture positive parent-teacher communication.

Alert Solutions’ school notification platform, SwiftK12, has all three of these helpful tools. We understand communicating effectively with parents, staff, and students is essential in the daily and weekly operations within a K-12 school or classroom.  From unexpected school closures to automated attendance notifications, SwiftK12 enables teachers and administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.

Improve parent-teacher communication with your school notification system!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement in K-12 Schools

Posted by Philip Young on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 @ 13:03 PM

With the digital world continuing to expand year over year, educators are beginning to leverage several technologies to help increase parental involvement in K-12 schools. However, some are skeptical of these digital tools and the effectiveness they have in creating meaningful relationships between teachers and parents. With this being said, the typical in-person parent-teacher meetings are not as common since the evolution of digital technology.

Mom and Daughter on Phone - Parental Involvement

According to a 2016 report, “there’s been a steep drop in the number of parents who believe that more intimate forms of communication—face-to-face meetings with teachers, for example—are the most effective means to convey important information about students.” This study also tells us there is a growing acceptance of digital methods among both teachers and parents.

Parental involvement is a trending topic in the education field.  Studies show students with engaged parents are more likely to attend school, graduate on time, do better academically, and are less likely to drop out. Students are also less likely to get in trouble and have substance abuse problems.

Keeping parents in the loop of day-to-day activities is not always easy, but with the help of digital tools like social media, video calling, and automated notifications, teachers are saving time and keeping parents happy.

3 Digital Tools to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Social Media
    Social media is a great way to stay connected with parents and promote parental involvement. Working parents may not be able to make it to parent engagement nights, but following classroom social media accounts such as Facebook pages or Twitter streams will keep them in the know. EdTech shares through using social media “they (parents) can stay more informed and offer more help and expertise during a time that’s more convenient for them.”

  2. Video Conferences & Calls
    If you can’t meet a parent in person, try video calling from the comfort of their home! Like mentioned previously, many parents are working and traveling which makes it difficult to meet with their child’s teachers. Video conferencing software such as Skype, Google Hangout, and FaceTime allow for great parental involvement digitally.

  3. Text Messaging & Automated Alerts
    Automated alerts and text message alerts are an easy way to boost parental involvement. This is becoming a preferred communication method for both teachers and parents alike. According to EdTech, “A lot of young parents become intimidated by formal conferences or can’t get time off work to attend. Many teachers have found that the ability to text parents has made communicating with them much easier.” A study was conducted in 2017 by Columbia University and parents were sent texts weekly about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments. This resulted in an “18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent reduction in course failures.” The numbers speak for themselves!

Alert Solutions’ industry leading school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows teachers and administrators to send text messages home to parents with ease. SwiftK12’s automated attendance alerts also serve as a great tool to help save staff time and ultimately increase attendance rates.

Pearson Education explains that improving communication and parental involvement using digital tools won’t happen overnight. They recommend a few tips to help with nurturing parent engagement outlined below:

  • Involve Parents in Coursework
    Find ways to get parents involved in homework and other school projects. This can be done by sending helpful reminders home through their preferred communication methods.

  • Teach Parents About Digital Learning
    With the many skeptics out there, it’s important to talk with parents about your school’s approach to digital personalized learning. Pearson recommends sharing “how are students benefiting, how much time per day are they spending on screens, how does digital allow students to work at their own pace and meet competencies, what will homework look like and overall WHY digital.”

  • Remember: Not All Parents are Fluent English Speakers
    Break down those communication barriers! There are tools for parents and teachers make it easier to grow and sustain parental involvement and engagement across a language barrier. SwiftK12 is a helpful tool as it translates messages with ease.

  • Set Expectations
    Make sure parents know what to expect! Parents who have multiple children enrolled in one school may be overwhelmed if each teacher has a different way to communicate with them. Pearson provides the following example; “Imagine having 2 children each with 6 different teachers who have 6 different ways to access information. This can create deep frustration that is hard to overcome.”

At Alert Solutions, we understand the importance of parental involvement and keeping parents engaged - it has so many benefits for students. We’ve kept up with new technology trends with our school notification platform, SwiftK12. Reaching parents is easy to do with our quick alerts and automated lunch and attendance alerts. 

Ready to learn more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

Parent Engagement Nights: Ideas to Boost Parental Involvement

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Mar 05, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Parental involvement in education is a highly discussed topic that’s gaining traction among K-12 educators. Encouraging parents to be engaged with their child’s school work is not only seen as an important rule of thumb, but it has many benefits for students.

Parental Involvement in Classroom

Studies tell us good parental involvement leads students to attend school more regularly, earn better grades, and have higher test scores. Children also have been shown to have lower rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts. The positive results speak for themselves; the tricky part is convincing parents to get involved.

Planning Your Parental Involvement 

It takes more than just parents and teachers to get parent engagement activities in the works. Kelly Bielefeld plans out her parent engagement nights to be informative sessions for parents to learn things that will ultimately help them support their child. This is what she does when planning:

  • Recruit a Team:
    Gathering a group of people to help with putting together a fun and inclusive parent engagement activity is essential. You want to make sure you’re hosting an event that parents want to attend, which is easier to do with a group of helpers on your side.

  • Pick Your Focus:
    There are a lot of fun ideas and informative areas your team can focus a parental involvement activity on, but choosing one can be difficult as there are many places to start. Should the focus be about curriculum, social issues, technology, student work, or the school’s mission? Reach out to parents and see what resonates with them and go from there. Bielefeld suggests rotating the areas of focus so that all parents are engaged.

  • Base Your Focus on Data
    Once you have decided on your broad idea you should try to narrow it down to a specific focus. This should be decided after you’ve looked at the data. Bielefeld explains the following, “The first piece of data to consider would be achievement data. If the plan is to have a “math night,” there should be data to support the need for a focus in this area. The other data that is important is parent feedback, often in the form of a survey.”

  • How to Engage
    Your topic has been chosen. Now you need to decide how exactly you’ll engage parents and get them involved. Consider open discussions, encourage movement and reflection on topics, and have people speak and share ideas on the chosen topic. A lecture simply will not cut it! Make the activity fun and engaging for a successful parental involvement night!

  • Plan, Plan, & Plan Some More!
    Parents are busy, so planning out your parental involvement activity in advance is key. Make sure you share your plans with parents early so they are more likely to attend!

4 Fun Ideas to Boost Parental Involvement

K-12 schools have devised a variety of different parent engagement and family themed nights to get parents through school doors. Below are 4 fun examples from creative schools:

  1. Family Yoga Night
    A school in Virginia has yoga as a part of their curriculum and often encourages students to bring their parents to join them. Attendees bring their own mats or towels to class and enjoy teacher-led stretching and poses. “It’s a great way for kids of all ages and their parents to spend time together in a positive way,” says PTA president Susan Estes.

  2. Wildlife Night
    A Florida elementary school partnered with a nearby local wildlife sanctuary. They brought animals such as snakes, skunks, and even an alligator into school for a live presentation. The students were learning about different habitats, so it fit in well with the curriculum. Plus, is there anything more fun for young kids than seeing animals up close? Parents were invited to join this fun-filled evening.

  3. Rockin’ Through the Decades
    This fun dance party took place at Vine Hill Elementary School in California. Parents and students showed up for an exciting evening and danced away in costumes from their favorite decades to music starting from the 1950s through to the present day. PTO Today suggests asking students and parents to submit song requests in advance to make sure all the favorites are covered!

  4. Annual Cook-Off Event
    A little competition never hurt anybody! A New Hampshire PTA holds an annual Chili Cook-Off competition where students’ parents prepare their favorite chili recipes. The winner takes home a special trophy and keeps it until the following year and then the trophy is passed to the next winner. PTO Today recommends tying this event in with a football game or pep rally theme.

When it comes to planning a fun night and promoting parental involvement, the possibilities are endless! PTO Today has more great ideas if you’re feeling stuck – click here!

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of parent engagement and keeping parents involved. Communicating with parents throughout the week is a great way to keep them informed of what’s happening at your school. Hosting entertaining parent engagement nights will improve your school’s rapport with parents… and it’s fun!

Check out our Parent Engagement Best Practice Guide for additional tips, tricks, and strategies to kick-start your parental involvement.

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement

Let's Chat: Improve Parental Involvement With These 4 Communication Tips

Posted by Nina Caliri on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 @ 11:01 AM

Whether it’s eating better, exercising more, or any other resolution, most people have that ‘fresh start’ mentality when a new year approaches.

Parent Teacher Meeting - Parental Involvement

As an educator, you want the best for all of your students. In 2019, consider applying a new approach to improved parental involvement in education.

Dinner Table MBA reminds us that education is more than what happens inside the four walls of a classroom. Unfortunately, “more than 80 percent of new teachers feel that parental support and involvement is the most challenging area they face; parents are either unwilling or don’t have the time to participate in their child’s education.” 

Encouraging communication and parental involvement has incredible benefits for a student; the tricky part is getting all parents on board.

Why is Parental Involvement Important in K-12 Education?

  • Students Perform Better in School
    According to PTO Today, students have been shown to earn better grades and higher test scores, attend school more regularly, and pass their classes.

  • Students Show Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Studies show “children with involved parents have enhanced skills for regulating emotions and feel negative emotions less often”. For example, children with involved parents have lower rates of substance use and delinquent acts compared to kids whose parents are uninvolved. Keeping parents engaged not only helps within the classroom, but also outside of the classroom in day-to-day living.

  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parental involvement has been shown to encourage students to interact with other students. Improved social skills in children leads to better academic outcomes.

It’s clear there are many benefits to parental involvement. It’s time to implement communication skills at your K-12 school to keep the conversation between teachers and parents going.  

Four Communication Tips to Improve Parental Involvement

  1. Set Your Expectations
    When communicating with parents initially, you want to make sure they know what you expect from your classroom. Making this clear from the get-go will prevent miscommunication. “Research has shown that parental expectations are one of the strongest predictors of student achievement. Your parent-teacher communication plan should be designed to set clear, consistent and high expectations for student performance in class.”

  2. Identify Parent Preferred Communication Methods
    Not everybody checks their email daily, or wants to receive weekly phone calls home from teachers. Letting parents choose their preferred communication method increases the chance of them responding and staying up-to-date on important information. Implementing a school notification system like SwiftK12 allows parents to choose their preferred communication method, which drastically improves message delivery.

  3. Share Communication About the Entire Classroom
    Consider weekly communication at the classroom level. This will let parents know that you as a teacher are responsible for more than just their child. TeachHub states, “Setting this context will help parents see your point of view when and/if you need to make a decision that is best for the group, but which might not be ideal for each individual student.”

  4. Measure Parental Involvement Success
    It’s important to keep track of whether parents are staying engaged, or if a change should happen to ensure that they do. Keep the following questions in mind: Are your school communications getting parents involved? Do parents show up to parent-teacher events and meetings? If the answers are no, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Here are some fun tips from one of our past blog posts on improving parental involvement:
    • Bring Your Parents to School Day
    • Celebrate Cultures Day
    • Create Family-Oriented Video Competitions
    • Present Annual Awards

It’s never too late to get started! Alert Solutions works with many K-12 schools and districts on their parental involvement strategies to improve overall engagement.

For more tips, tricks, and strategies, check out our best practice guide today!

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Topics: school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement, parent communication, student engagement

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