K12 Records Resources

June 12, 2023

Urban School Expectations: What School Leaders Should Know


Different communities have varying preferences when it comes to paper versus digital administrative process methods. We can get a better understanding of the preferences of your school system’s community based on locale.


Families in urban school districts offer a unique perspective compared to other communities. They are more reliant on technology than their rural and suburban counterparts. 


In this article, we'll discuss how urban communities have different expectations for digital and paper-based technology. This information will ultimately help school system staff understand the needs of families and students in their communities.


All claims in this article are derived from our national study conducted in 2022 called Communications with Education Systems.


What are the preferences of urban communities?

Urban populations are more reliant on technology than those in rural or suburban locales. 


Our latest study about how families interact with education systems shows urban communities appreciate institutions that offer paperless transactions and communications. Going digital eliminates the need for printing, mailing, or delivering important documents. American families use digital technology daily and show trust in its security when making purchases online.


Life moves quickly in urban areas. Technology powers many elements of this environment. Most city-based locations consumers interact with have undergone an element of digital transformation.


When an institution like a local school system isn't up to tech standards, urban dwellers consider it to be poor customer service, making them more frustrated with the limitations. 


Diversity is increasing in urban areas

Urban areas are becoming more diverse compared to suburban and rural. Pew Research Center’s 2012 to 2016 American Community Survey data states that immigration numbers are rising in urban communities. Immigrants have accounted for the majority of U.S. population growth since 1965. 


If that portion of the school population doesn't speak English or Spanish, they'll be more likely to want digital communication options. Our report shows that non-English or Spanish speakers are frustrated by paper-based processes in school systems. 


When a school or district sends out paper documents or applications, it might not be in the family's native language. Therefore, school systems and families end up spending extra time and money for interpretation or translation services to understand and complete the particular correspondence. With digital communication, it is more likely that solutions will offer free, automatic translations. 


Staying in the loop with your student’s school shouldn't be a challenge, regardless of background. Urban families just want school systems to provide digital alternatives that better meet them where they are.


How do urban and suburban community preferences compare?

The technology preferences of suburban communities are a middle ground between rural and urban areas.


We learned families in suburban districts are unhappy with how tax dollars are spent when an institution requires you to print materials in advance, bring a check, or fax documents to them.


Just like urban dwellers, they want better access, service, and communication from institutions. However, suburban residents are more likely to have access to all kinds of technologies at home than those in urban districts. 


While suburban dwellers are unhappy when they're required to print materials in advance, they're only somewhat frustrated with the customer service in those situations. 


Urban voices are loud in their demand—suburban ones are more of a whisper. They like the idea of digital options in their school systems but are more likely to get by without them. On the other hand, families in urban districts may have to sacrifice more in order to work with paper-based processes. 


The wants and needs of suburban and urban communities overlap, but they still have differences. Both desire better access to technology, improved service from institutions, and efficient communication channels. However, the emphasis and intensity of these preferences vary between these groups.


How do urban and rural community preferences compare?

Families in rural areas have slightly different preferences than urban dwellers.


Rural residents are more likely to have easy access to paper-based technology than their urban counterparts. They may have paper envelopes, stamps, personal checkbooks, a printer, or a desktop or laptop computer in their homes. 


According to Pew Research Center, nearly half of rural dwellers live in or near the area they grew up in. Their communities have always operated like this and are not likely to change. 


Those in rural areas feel more attachment to their community than their urban and suburban counterparts, so they are more forgiving of antiquated processes. Yet, rural residents would rather have a digital option when they are given the choice. 


Rural communities may be more understanding of paper-based processes. But, they are eager to embrace new technology. They identify communication methods requiring printers, checkbooks, and paper envelopes as frustrating.


Members of urban communities are simply a different side of the same coin. They communicate about personal and professional matters with digital technology. In some ways, their lives revolve around it. They see technology as part of every aspect of society and consider this to be the way life should be. 


Whether they have to go out of their way or simply go home to use paper-based technology, both members of urban and rural communities will find a way to do so. But the fact is both groups want to replace outdated communication methods with digital technology. 


Urban dwellers are just more eager.


Urban families can’t wait to go digital

Urban communities are excited to make the change, as they already have in most other facets of their daily lives. They have distinct preferences when it comes to administrative processes.


Urban families favor digital communication methods over paper-based ones. With their daily reliance on technology, urban populations appreciate the convenience of paperless transactions and communications.


In addition, the increasing diversity in urban areas highlights the need for digital communication options to accommodate English language learners.


While suburban and rural communities also desire improved access to technology and efficient communication channels, their preferences are not as intense as urban dwellers.


Ultimately, families from all communities seek to replace outdated communication methods with digital technology, but urban dwellers exhibit a greater eagerness for this transition.


To learn more about urban preferences for digital and the benefits of going paperless in school systems, download the Communications with Education Systems Study.


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Fill out the form to download the full Communications with Education Systems Report.