Charter School District Reaches More Parents & Saves Money with ParentSquare
Case Study: The Varnett Public School (TX)
The three-school charter district lacked a centralized system for school-home communications.
After learning about the feature-rich school-home communication platform, the district implemented ParentSquare across all three of its campuses.
The district has about 96% reachability on all of its communications, saves money by not having to print and distribute physical report cards and progress reports, and has a versatile platform for sharing news, posts and student achievements.
A Title 1 charter school district with three campuses in Houston, The Varnett Public School focuses on helping Pre-K through eighth-grade students achieve their personal best while learning in a protective and nurturing environment.
About 58% of this open-enrollment district’s student population speaks Spanish and 42% of its students are African American. The Varnett Public School’s students are high achievers: one of its three campuses received an “A” rating on the most recent state STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) test and the other two were awarded a “B” rating.
In 2020, after realizing that its parent/guardian communication approach was lacking, the district went in search of a platform that would both open up those lines of communication and provide a high level of reporting and analytics on those interactions.
“We couldn’t be sure that every parent was being reached,” Varnett Director of Communications and Marketing Pete McConnell said. “We also had no way to keep track of the information that was being delivered.” This turned into a bigger burden in March 2020, when districts were dealing with COVID-19 shutdowns and the need for better, two-way communications with families and other stakeholders.
Varnett’s IT director noted that they were looking for a central way to communicate with parents that they could roll out quickly and connect to the school’s existing Clever (the digital learning resource repository) integrations. The schools didn’t want to have to start importing phone numbers and other data into the new platform; they just needed it to work.
The “Must Haves”
The Clever integration was an important “must have” for The Varnett Public School, which uses the platform to store and share much of its data. “There isn’t a long list of platforms that integrate well with Clever,” Varnett’s IT director added. “There were some competitors that integrated, but they didn’t have all the communication options that ParentSquare had.”
For example, some of the district’s families don’t use smartphones, so they do need a phone call. “That was one of the features that was unique to ParentSquare,” the IT director said.
ParentSquare also participates in the Texas Interlocal Purchasing System (TIPS), the state’s purchasing cooperative. This stamp of approval and the opportunity to acquire the platform through the co-op made it that much more attractive for The Varnett Public School.
The IT director noted that the ParentSquare implementation was “super simple” and that the company provided supporting documents like parent/guardian handouts and flyers, plus Facebook posts. “Just about anything you can think of, they’ve already created one for you,” he added, who likes the platform’s comprehensive reporting and reachability data.
“Just that quick overview we get every week is really helpful to gauge whether we need to get parent information,” he said, “or if it’s time to update someone’s contact information.”
A Great Time and Money Saver
“Being able to send out report cards and progress reports automatically through our current reporting system is a great time and money saver,” said McConnell, who estimates that 96% of all communications are received and opened by the intended recipients.
“I like the fact that we’re directly communicating with parents and getting evidence that they’re receiving our message,” he continued. “We can use Google Analytics to see how we’re doing, but we don’t have nearly the percentage visiting our website versus connecting directly with us via ParentSquare. It just gives me a sense of confidence that we’ve reached them.”
“I like the fact that we’re directly communicating with parents and getting evidence that they’re receiving our message. We can use Google Analytics to see how we’re doing, but we don’t have nearly the percentage visiting our website versus connecting directly with us via ParentSquare. It just gives me a sense of confidence that we’ve reached them.”
Director of Communications and Marketing
Parents Love it
“It gives them the opportunity to be creative by making flyers that are colorful and that really pop,” McConnell said. “Those communications not only capture people’s attention, but they also serve as a backup to relying on the student to bring paper home.”
McConnell uses ParentSquare to share stories and features with parents and staff. If a student wins an award, for example, he will post that information and share it via the communication platform. He recently posted a “Meet the STAAR Interim Assessment Challenge Winners” article focused on the mid-year sample STAAR test.
“The actual test takes place later, but this one gives an indication of where the kids are,” McConnell explained. “I posted the results and congratulated third to fifth graders at the East Campus for earning the highest percentages of meeting and mastering math and science.”
Families and students really like being kept “in the know” through McConnell’s posts. ParentSquare also offers built-in Spanish translation (as well as 100 other languages) that helps McConnell more easily reach the 58% of district families that speak Spanish.
“Parents love it,” he said. “When they see their child has done well or won an award, they like to brag about it. In that sense, the platform itself has become a good word-of-mouth recruiting tool for us.”