Administrators WORK WITH PARENTS & THE COMMUNITY
Giving Parents Options: Strategies for Informing Parents and Implementing Public School Choice And Supplemental Educational Services Under No Child Left Behind
September 2007
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Engaging in additional outreach activities

The following activities are offered as additional opportunities for districts to reach parents and provide information about public school choice and SES options.

School choice and SES provider fairs. Districtwide school choice and SES provider fairs may be particularly effective tools for providing parents with additional information about their options. Such fairs have come to be particularly popular among parents, as they can provide unique face-to-face opportunities to learn more about the offerings of schools that parents may be considering as transfer options for their children, and/or about the services of SES providers they may be considering as tutors. Taking into account district size and numbers of eligible students, districts might consider whether it is best to have one fair covering both public school choice and SES, or separate fairs for each.

Districts that administer choice programs and options apart from the public school choice provisions of No Child Left Behind, such as charter or magnet school programs, open enrollment, and other state or local school choice programs, might consider holding fairs at which all choice options are presented. Similar considerations might apply to districts with other out-of-school programs in addition to SES.

Making it work

District choice and SES fairs depend for their success on a variety of factors, including advertising and accessibility. If a district wishes to hold a fair, it should take care to spread the word as effectively as possible so that it proves maximally useful for all parties. Moreover, a district should ensure that such fairs occur at locations that are conveniently accessible for parents (e.g. along public transportation lines) and at times when most parents can attend (e.g. after work or over the weekend). A district might also consider attaching the fair to other districtwide events that are well known and well attended by the parent community. To further ensure parent attendance, some districts have also chosen to offer refreshments and childcare.

Public service announcements. Another potentially effective means for reaching out to parents is through public service announcements (PSAs) via radio or television. Using an audiovisual format, PSAs can be a useful tool to inform parents whose reading skills may be limited.

Making it work

When providing PSAs, districts should be mindful of what parents listen to or watch and when. Districts should know when various segments of parents are most likely to be listening to the radio (e.g. during a commute to or from work), and should know which television programs parents most often watch (e.g., local news, soap operas, "telenovellas," etc.). Moreover, when making PSAs, districts should also consider who is best able to engage the attention of parents, be it a fellow parent, a teacher, principal, superintendent, local community member, local celebrity, etc.

Districts with their own television stations or with partnerships with local public access stations could also use these to provide parents with information about public school choice and SES.

Automated phone messages and information hotlines. One potentially cost-effective means of informing parents about their choice and SES options is via an automated phone message. Increasingly, districts are using automated phone message systems to inform parents of school closings and important school events, and parents often report that this is a convenient way to be informed about what is happening at school. Districts can use these systems to an additional advantage by providing information about school choice and SES options.

Districts and schools also provide telephone hotlines as additional points of information for parents. Some districts have created special hotlines specifically to provide parents with information on public school choice and SES, while others have provided this service for a broader menu of topics that parents can access by calling the district's general information number.

Advertisements in local print media. Districts also often advertise public school choice and SES options in local newspapers and other print media. When doing so, districts should consider which media parents of eligible students read most often and should target advertisements accordingly. In particular, districts should consider posting advertisements in smaller newspapers and publications of communities in which eligible students live, especially those in which languages other than English are predominantly spoken.

Some districts have also advertised these options on billboards in neighborhoods of eligible families.

Flyers and brochures. Flyers and brochures remain effective means for spreading information, and many districts have developed such materials to provide general information about public school choice and SES to eligible students and the greater community. Districts could also develop informational posters and distribute them to schools where students are eligible for public school choice and SES, which could then post them at school entrances and in school offices to further increase parent awareness.

Making it work

When making flyers and other informational materials available in the greater community, districts should be mindful of where parents are most likely to congregate and where they generally expect to receive information, e.g., community centers, places of worship, beauty salons, or doctors' offices.

Informational CDs and DVDs. To further enhance their reach, some districts have produced audio and video CDs and DVDs with information about public school choice and SES, and have made copies of these available for parents to use at schools, libraries, and other locations throughout the community. These products could contain the PSAs discussed above, as well as a variety of other information that can be very helpful to parents. For instance, some districts have invited SES providers to contribute short descriptions or demonstrations of their individual programs, so that parents can gain first-hand knowledge of their options at their convenience. Regarding public school choice, districts could involve the staffs of schools that may be transfer options in similar ways.

District Web sites. As parents increasingly rely on the Internet to obtain information, the district Web site has come to be a useful and cost-effective means for spreading the word about public school choice and SES. Districts should consider developing Web pages with details about public school choice and SES, as well as a means for parents to submit public school choice or SES applications online.


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Last Modified: 08/18/2008