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Informing without overwhelming
While a district should include in its parent notifications all the information that parents need to make informed decisions, it also needs to be wary of presenting parents with too much information all at once. Developing a notification letter that meets the law's requirements and includes any additional needed information and that does not overwhelm parents can indeed be a difficult task, but it is not an impossible one. In crafting truly user-friendly notification letters, districts should strive to find a balance between under-informing and inundating parents.
Using attachments. A notification letter that is written in plain, simple, and succinct language using the tools described above can be an important first step in the effort to provide appropriate information without overwhelming parents. Beyond this, a district might consider limiting the contents of its notification letters to what is absolutely necessary to help parents learn about their public school choice or SES options. As for information that is not required by law but is nonetheless needed in a fully informative parent notice as described above, a district may include it in an attachment or in other supplemental materials. However, if a district opts not to include a required component of parent notification in the letter, it must be sure to include this component in an attachment to the letter when it goes out in order to ensure compliance.
Including an SES provider catalog. Rather than include descriptions of SES providers' services, qualifications, and evidence of effectiveness in the letter itself—which can result in quite a lengthy notice if there are many providers serving the district—a district might consider developing, as some have done, a separate catalog of SES providers that includes this required information and attach it to the parent notice. The district might also consider including additional general information about SES in the catalog to further assist parents in choosing a provider. In developing such a catalog, a district should be mindful of the bases on which parents make decisions about SES and present information about SES providers in multiple ways. For instance, in addition to providing individual descriptions of providers' services, a district could include a chart that conveniently summarizes providers' services and allows for comparisons of providers based on key considerations such as provider type (site-based, in-home, online, etc.), location of services, and number of hours or sessions offered.
Including a public school choice catalog. Districts might consider developing a similar catalog of the schools available as transfer options, where appropriate. In addition to the information districts are required to provide about transfer schools (e.g., measures of academic achievement), districts could also include descriptions of special academic programs or facilities, the availability of before- or after-school programs, and the professional qualifications of teachers at these schools.
For more information on providing materials in a supplement to parent notices, see "Using supplemental materials" on page 18.