Customer service is a concept not traditionally associated with public schools—but according to many district leaders, it’s every bit as critical to success in education as it is in business.
In education, the “customers” are the students who attend a school and their families, and delivering a better experience for these stakeholders can lead to dramatically improved outcomes.
Research has shown that engaging parents and making them full partners in their children’s education can help boost student achievement. What’s more, when students take ownership of their own learning, they are more likely to excel.
Both of these things can happen when schools enhance their customer service by improving the flow of communication between teachers, parents, and students; streamlining student registration and other important processes; and soliciting feedback to learn how they can better meet families’ needs.
This is a lesson one Illinois district has learned firsthand, enjoying tangible results by being more responsive to stakeholders—and Skyward’s solution has been the engine driving this improvement.
"IT HAS BECOME OUR PRIMARY COMMUNICATIONS TOOL IN THE DISTRICT."
Enabling Two-Way Communication
At Consolidated High School District 230, Skyward is the key operational platform for the district. Skyward’s human resources, financial, and student management solution are at the center of the district’s operations. But the solution’s most important contribution might be what parents and students get out of it from a communication standpoint, according to Chief Technology Officer John Connolly.
District 230 has about 10,000 parents regularly logging into Skyward’s Family Access, which provides a window into what is going on in the schools. There is an intuitive message center where parents can post messages to their children’s teachers, and teachers can post messages to the entire class or to individual students or parents.
“Parents can send one message to all of their child’s teachers with the click of a button,” said Information Systems Manager Scott Anthony. “It has become our primary communications tool in the district.”
Skyward’s Family Access is enabling two-way communications between parents and teachers in a way that District 230 didn’t have before. “A few years ago you could send an email message if you knew the teacher’s email address and you would hope they were checking their email,” said Anthony. “Now, the message center is the first thing parents see when they log in, so if they have a new message from a teacher, it’s going to be front and center. This has made it so much easier for parents to get in contact with a teacher.”
"WHAT I DIDN'T EXPECT WAS FOR THE STUDENTS TO EMBRACE IT SO MUCH. IT CAN BE THREE O' CLOCK IN THE MORNING, AND THERE ARE KIDS WHO ARE CHECKING THEIR GRADES. IT'S CRAZY."
But it’s not just teachers who are using the system to communicate: Guidance counselors, special-education case managers, coaches, and advisors also can leave messages for parents and students. As an example, Anthony said, “If there’s a change in the practice schedule, there is not a phone chain anymore. Now, coaches can generate one message immediately to all the kids on that roster, post it to the message center, and then the players know what’s going on.”
District 230 has seen attendance improve dramatically since adopting Skyward’s solution, and student tardiness has declined. “There is so much more real-time interaction, and the dean’s office can respond quicker if there is a student who hasn’t reported to class,” Anthony said. Parents also can sign up to receive an automated email message when a disciplinary infraction has been attached to a student’s record. “If they see that email come in, often they’re on the phone with the dean before their child even gets to see the dean,” he added.
Before adopting Skyward, District 230 used its own homegrown gradebook system, and it had a separate portal for attendance and discipline information. “When Skyward merged all that together, I knew parents would jump on board,” Anthony said. “What I didn’t expect was for the students to embrace it so much. It can be three o’clock in the morning, and there are kids who are checking their grades. It’s crazy.”
One of the messages that District 230 tries to communicate is how important it is for students to take ownership of their own learning, Connolly said. Having easy access to their academic information empowers students to do this.
“We have well over one million messages that are generated to parents and students through Skyward. Over 90 percent of our kids have logged in to get their final grades within two weeks of a semester exam. So it’s highly, highly used by both parents and students,” he said.
“Research shows that when parents are involved, kids are more likely to be successful in school. Skyward is one of the key factors in keeping parents involved, which in turn leads to better success for our students.”
Providing Exceptional Value
Customer service isn’t just something Skyward helps districts deliver: It’s a concept the company applies within its own approach as well.
“I’ve compared Skyward to competitors, and I think the solution itself is better,” Anthony concluded. “But on top of that, I would say the support has been beyond phenomenal. In the six or seven years we’ve been using them, I’ve never had a bad experience.”
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
Do you believe in the power of effective communication and an engaged community? To learn more, check out the Student Management Suite.