​​Keys to Success: Numbers 4 through 8​

​Be Consistent and Assertive

Use as many different ways of reaching parents as possible. In our focus groups, parents expressed no preference for mailings, flyers, phone calls, emails or text messages.

And remember, one communication will not do the trick. Some parents conscientiously review every piece of paper their child brings home from school. Others get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials and may overlook your registration form. Or the “backpack express” could get derailed: students often forget about the papers at the bottom of their backpack, never getting them to their parents.

At a minimum, try to reach every parent at least three times using at least two different approaches.

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Use Personalized Outreach

It can be very meaningful to parents and students alike to hear a recommendation for your program directly from the people that matter to them. When Crosby asked parents who these people are, they mentioned teachers, principals, assistant principals and guidance counselors.

Principals are especially crucial. We found that schools' registration numbers started to climb once their principals made it a priority.

Having trusted people make phone calls, send personal notes or talk to parents at school events is labor-intensive but powerful. Go to the Build Your Plan page for tips and tools to help make it happen.

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Build relationships with parents and students

Relationship-building means making parents and students feel like part of a summer learning "family."

To create that feeling, districts focused on the time between the end of the registration and the first day of their programs, sending home a confirmation letter as soon as a registration form was received, putting on events in the spring for parents and students who had registered, and communicating directly with registered students as the school year wound down and summer approached. Activities like these likely contibuted to a decline in no-show rates.​

To keep students coming back from summer to summer, districts are now working to stay connected with parents and students year round. Here’s an example of a holiday card produced by Boston Public Schools and Boston After School and Beyond and sent before winter break by Boys & Girls Clubs, one of Boston's summer program providers: ​

Happy Holidays Summer Learning Graphic
Make registration as easy as possible

Offer parents as many ways as possible to register their child. Options include mailing the completed registration form into the central office, sending it back to the child's school, completing an online form, and registering at on-site at events or over the phone. ​

 PLAIN LANGUAGE

 

 

The federal government has a website all about accessible language, or plain languagehttp://www.plainlanguage.gov/index.cfmThe federal government has a website all about accessible language, or plain language
This site includes a very useful checklisthttp://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/quickreference/checklist.cfmThis site includes a very useful checklist

Take note: The more options you offer parents, the more difficult it can be to keep track of registration data. Make sure it's clear who is responsible at each school for collecting registration forms, reporting registrations to the summer learning team and transmitting completed forms to the central office in a timely manner.

Also important: writing materials at a 6th-to-8th-grade reading level, preferably closer to 6th grade, if possible. A flyer that takes too much effort to understand may be set aside. A handy tool for testing the reading grade level of any text can found in Microsoft Word: Just go to File/Options/Proofing and select "Show Readability Statistics."

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Engage students directly

Many parents are much less likely to register their child for a summer learning program if he or she isn't excited about it. They're also less likely to enforce regular attendance if their child isn't enjoying the experience. Students are, for lack of a better word, your customers.

Events like ice cream socials, pizza parties or a small-group lunch with a teacher are one way to market to students. Another is to address and send a postcard directly to them; children love receiving their own mail. At least one district encouraged teachers participating in its summer learning program to reach out to eligible students at their schools so the students would know they'd be entering the program with at least one important adult relationship in place.

Go to the All Resources page, for examples and templates.