K12 Records Resources

April 06, 2023

Navigating the Maze of School System Communication: The Parents’ Journey




Frustrating realities of school system communication for parents

Parents play a critical role in their children's education and are often the primary point of contact between their child and their school. However, navigating the complex, often frustrating communication channels with school districts can be a daunting task. From manual, in-person processes to unavailable staff, there are numerous challenges parents face when trying to get the information they need to support their child's academic journey. It’s not a surprise to learn that overall, Americans’ experiences conducting business with educational institutions could be improved. 


According to our recent report, The 2023 Communications with Education Systems study:


  • 76% of Americans expect more efficient access, service, and communication from school administrative systems than they currently get. 

  • 45% of school district members prefer to exchange information over an online system such as email or an institution's website over the next 2-3 years. 


Wasted time and confusion are two of the biggest challenges reported when it comes to working with schools or districts. While their children are at school, parents and guardians navigate their own daily lives that include full-time jobs and responsibilities. When educational institutions require them to adhere to paper-based processes like printing materials, paying by check, or faxing documents, it becomes a frustrating disruption. 


Challenges parents experience when educational institutions require paper-based processes include:

  • The time-consuming process of filling out forms by hand and mailing them in.

  • Difficulty in keeping track of paperwork that needs to be completed or submitted.

  • The potential for paper forms to get lost or misplaced.

  • Delays caused by mailing time or processing times on the institution's end.

  • The need to physically visit the institution's office to complete forms, causing additional time and travel expenses.

  • Inconvenience caused by having to take time off work to complete paperwork during business hours.

  • The possibility of private family and student information getting into the wrong hands.


In our study, we also asked parents how they would feel if educational institutions provided easier ways to complete transactions. The majority reported they would feel relief – or that such an option is what they expect, but don’t receive. In fact, 58% of respondents say relying on paper-based transactions is a thing of the past.


58% of parents & guardians say relying on paper-based transactions within school systems is a thing of the past.



What parents & guardians want: Understanding expectations for school district communication

Paper-based transactions have long been a staple of educational institutions, from enrollment forms to permission slips and beyond. However, the increasing prevalence of digital technology has made it clear that these antiquated processes are no longer the most efficient or convenient options. For parents, the time and energy required to complete and submit these paper-based transactions can be a significant source of frustration and stress. In fact, our recent study found:


  • 73% of Americans think emerging generations will demand all their interactions with the government be through mobile devices.

  • Over 70% of people report that a variety of digital customer services would be valuable in interacting with educational institutions.


Simply put, parents believe that a variety of digital customer services would be valuable in interacting with educational institutions because they provide a more efficient, convenient, and accessible way to communicate and complete transactions. Digital customer services allow parents to easily access and track important information. Additionally, digital services can reduce the amount of time and resources needed to complete tasks like paying fees, registering for classes, and submitting forms.



How to improve school-parent communication by going digital

“We have to take care of the people we employ in our school systems, but sometimes I think we forget about that in our conversations about parents.”


-Dr. Adam A. Phyall III, Newton County School System, #NYCSchools Tech Summit, Tech & Learning


During the hustle and bustle of the school year, it can be easy to forget who districts actually serve: citizens, families, and students. Not all parents have had good experiences with school systems, and it’s important for educational institutions to seek to remove barriers and bridge relationships. More specifically, administrations should take the time to truly understand and assess their respective communities and ask themselves: “How do parents actually want to receive communication?” 


By providing easier and more streamlined digital alternatives, educational institutions can alleviate these burdens, allowing parents to spend less time on administrative tasks and more time focusing on their child's academic progress. The convenience and simplicity of digital transactions can be a breath of fresh air for parents who are already juggling numerous responsibilities and commitments, providing a much-needed sense of relief and peace of mind.


“When we had the [on-site] transcript desk where people drove up, came inside, and paid their money, we did not have the same amount of traffic that we do now. Build it, and they will come! As soon as we rolled this out, we started seeing 10-15 requests a day, and then every day it was like ‘bam!’ Since we have opened up the electronic process, the requests have not stopped.”


-Scribbles Software customer Edward Perry, Enrollment and Student Information Partner, Tulsa Public Schools


Frankly, parents and families aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from going digital. Switching to digital processes can benefit school districts too, especially from a communications perspective. Digital processes ensure that information and updates are communicated efficiently to parents, students, and staff. Additionally, digital processes can help reduce miscommunication or lost documents, ensuring all parties have access to the same information. This can save time and prevent confusion, ultimately improving the quality of communication between educational institutions and their stakeholders. By making communication more streamlined and efficient, digital processes can help school districts build stronger relationships with parents, students, and staff, ultimately leading to a better educational experience for everyone involved.


If your school district wants to move away from paper-based processes but isn’t sure where to begin, there are a few easy ways to start your journey:

  • Districts that have yet to make the switch to online processes should consider evaluating the needs of their communities currently, in addition to the likely direction for the future. Paper-based processes may be serving families now, but the shift to digital is already underway for most Americans. 

  • Change often takes time, so planning now for future shifts over the next 2-3 years can help simplify the process. Change will also come with challenges, so a pilot or a slow rollout across different sites or across different systems can help streamline a larger technology change across an entire school or district.

  • For schools ready to transition to managing documents or processes online, consider technology partners that offer the features that matter to community members, such as: 


  • Online payment systems

  • Online dashboard access

  • Automated messaging (emails, voice messages, and texts)

  • Mobile-friendly access

  • Records of interactions

  • Strong data security

  • Friendly customer service for students, families, and staff who need assistance


Scribbles’ 2023 communications with education systems study

Recently, Scribbles Software published a new research report covering communication trends between school districts and families, students, and alumni. “Mismatched Expectations: How Students, Families, and Alumni Expect to Interact with Education Systems” is available now! The survey results detail the insights of students, alumni, and families from a diverse range of school districts and charter schools across America. Download the report now to gain perspective on your district or charter school.




Download our report to get access to research key findings!