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Ensuring that the notice reaches its target
A district may go to great lengths to carefully craft a parent notice, only to find that parents never receive it. There are potentially many reasons for this occurrence, yet some key considerations will help districts ensure that parent notices reach their target audiences.
Knowing how information gets home: Sending the notice via mail or backpack. A notification letter may go unread for the simple reason that its manner of delivery was ineffective. Notices might be sent by regular mail or via an eligible student's backpack, and districts should consider which of these means is likely to be more effective in reaching parents. In some cases, sending a parent notice via regular mail can be ineffective, particularly, for instance, in communities where the rate of family mobility is high. In areas such as these—which might characterize many areas around the country, especially urban areas—sending notices via students' backpacks may have a greater likelihood of reaching parents than a mailing to an address at which a family no longer resides.
While a backpack mailing may in some instances prove to be a more effective means of reaching parents of elementary school students for whom this type of communication is common and expected, it may be less effective at reaching parents of older students whose backpacks are not always as accessible. Thus, in addition to issues related to family mobility, some districts also consider students' grade level when determining how best to notify parents of their public school choice and SES options. A district could decide to notify parents of elementary school students via backpack, and parents of middle and high school students via regular mail. A district could also decide to send notices through both means so as to increase the likelihood of reaching parents.
Knowing whom parents trust: Sending the notice from the district or the school. Even if a notification letter gets into parents' hands, it might still go unread for the simple reason that parents may be apprehensive of the letter's author and therefore decide to discard it before removing it from its envelope. One way that districts have helped prevent this from occurring is by being mindful of whom parents trust. In some areas, parents may be suspicious of any official communication from the district, but they may be more comfortable receiving correspondence from their child's school, perhaps because of relationships they may have established with teachers or school officials. In other areas, for any of a variety of reasons, the opposite may be true. Either way, districts should have a reasonable sense of which case generally applies to their parents and should consider sending parent notices from whichever level—district or school—holds more trust among the parent community. The responsibility for notifying parents remains, of course, with the district.
A district could also decide to send notices from both the district and the school, and in so doing can further emphasize to parents the value of these options to their child's education.
For more information on involving schools and school staff in parent outreach activities, see "Involving schools and school staff" on p.14.
Distributing notices through broader means. Whether sending individual parent notices via backpack or regular mail, from the district or from the school, districts can further ensure parents are informed by including general versions of the notices in broader communications. For example, districts have included such versions in district newsletters and have posted them on Web sites. Schools have done likewise as well as made copies available to parents at school sites.
Some districts and schools have also included notices about SES opportunities in communications to families about their eligibility for free or reduced-price meals.