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The Best Family Communication Platforms for Teachers and Schools

After dozens of hours of testing, we recommend TalkingPoints as a standout messaging tool for families, teachers, and students.

Christine Elgersma | June 10, 2021

Family engagement can sometimes feel like a snow leopard: elusive, but beautiful when you encounter it. Yet, virtually all research points to the fact that having parents and caregivers engaged in their kids' education is hugely beneficial. With all of the potential barriers to creating and maintaining meaningful connection, teachers need a solution that works for them, their classrooms, and the larger school community.

While many districts use a learning management system (or LMS) that also has some messaging features, teachers often need something different for more targeted or personalized communication with families. Thankfully, there's no shortage of choices when it comes to parent-teacher communication apps vying to answer this call. For the most part, many of these apps overlap in their core features: All of these tools let you target communications, translate messages, and allow parents to sign up in multiple ways. Most offer a free version and may also let you attach files. Some provide just about every feature you can imagine and more, while others are more streamlined.

After lots of research and testing, we chose one platform because it offers excellent versions of the core features found in many apps, and because it's accessible to all communities. We've also called out a handful of other great tools that have some standout features you might find useful. We hope this info can help you narrow down your selection according to your classroom or school's specific needs.

Our selections

Best overall: TalkingPoints

TalkingPoints offers everything you need, and it's 100% free -- and ad-free -- for everyone. Though it doesn't have all of the bells and whistles you'll find in some other tools, it delivers the essentials effectively, thoughtfully, and with all stakeholders in mind. Plus, it works for all grade levels.

First and foremost, TalkingPoints makes it easy to get started. Teachers can import users manually or import entire rosters with Google Classroom integration. Family members and caregivers can join via SMS or code. Since mobile devices are more common than PCs in people's homes, letting families sign up via text gives them easy, immediate access; plus, you can invite them to download the app at any time. Once signed up, the onboarding and initial walk-through leads both teachers and families through each step and feature. Overall, the platform is super easy to use, whether you're on mobile or the web.

Collectively, students in the U.S. come from homes where more than 400 languages are spoken, so it's no shock that almost every messaging tool has translation options. But TalkingPoints has made translation a core feature, showing users the messages pre- and post-translation, to help ensure more accurate translation and allow for learning a bit of school-related vocabulary. And if it's easier or more effective to get your message across via video, you also can send video messages with closed-captioning.

This focus on inclusivity isn't just limited to the translation feature. TalkingPoints allows for up to five contacts per student, and none needs to be a biological parent. The student can be one of those contacts as well -- this is great for older students working on building responsibility skills and self-regulation. One drawback: TalkingPoints only includes "male" and "female" in its gender choices, which won't work for some students.

Like most of the platforms we tested, TalkingPoints allows teachers to send messages to individuals or the whole class, send all manner of media (pictures, videos, and documents), send polls, set office hours (so parents know when you're unavailable), schedule messages ahead of time, and create message templates to reuse. There's also an analytics section if you -- or your district -- want to keep track of family engagement data. So, while it may not have all of the features of its competitors, TalkingPoints is a standout messaging platform for any grade level that makes it easy for teachers, students, and caregivers to communicate.

Read our full review of TalkingPoints.

Runner-up: Remind

Like TalkingPoints, Remind focuses on messaging: It doesn't have a lot of other features to facilitate event coordination or behavior management, but that's not its purpose. Though it's onboarding process isn't quite as friendly as what TalkingPoints offers, Remind is also free for parents and teachers (school- and district-wide accounts are available for a fee). And while the web and mobile versions differ a bit, the app lets you send voice memos, which is really handy for when you're on the go or if you need to communicate with caregivers who might prefer audio communication over a written message. The interface is clean and simple, and translation is offered for lots of languages. However, on mobile, users may need to adjust the language settings in their device -- not just in the app -- which can get confusing.

What sets Remind apart are some small, but very useful, features. For instance, there's a Files section, so if you have documents that you need to attach frequently, it's easy to store and find them right on the platform. And, you can see all of the files you've attached to messages. Also, there's a place to add a private note -- that's for your eyes only -- about recipients, which is super helpful when you have over 100 students and you want to remember any accommodations or personalized information that could help you make inroads with kids or their families. Finally, like TalkingPoints, Remind feels age-neutral, so it can work for just about any grade level.

Read our full review of Remind.

Best overall comprehensive platform: Bloomz

If your classroom or school needs messaging; coordination tools like calendars and volunteer sign-ups; student portfolios, behavior management features, and even a way to check kids' health, Bloomz might just be what you need. Though it overlaps with other platforms on many fronts, it has a look and feel that works for all ages while also letting older students take on more responsibility for themselves. Unlike most other platforms -- Seesaw being an exception -- Bloomz also offers screencasting, so you can actually send along some instruction. Like ClassDojo, Bloomz lets teachers track attendance, create student groups, and set class goals. The biggest drawback is that some features are visible but only available if you upgrade to a paid account. For some, Bloomz will actually have too many features, and those who aren't as tech savvy may be a bit overwhelmed by it all, but if you're looking for a comprehensive communication tool, look no further.

Read our full review of Bloomz.

Best choice to showcase student work: Seesaw

Instead of tattered folders stuffed with papers, digital portfolios are the 21st-century way to track student progress. And while there are lots of great options, Seesaw lets you share students' work in real time, alongside messages for families. Although Seesaw could feasibly work for all grades, it's best suited to the kinds of things younger students do most often: shorter assignments or visual student work that you can share with parents. So, for pre-K through third grade, when milestones come fast and furious and one photo can capture that oh-so-special moment, Seesaw is a great way to keep parents up to date. Keeping parents in the loop and sharing students' work can spark important discussions, and students can share their learning via files, photos, videos, and drawings. Students can even add to their portfolios themselves, which can help them develop their ownership and agency.

Read our full review of Seesaw.

Best choice for classroom management features: ClassDojo

Although other platforms have behavior management features, ClassDojo was the original in this category. Alongside elements like behavior reporting, class goals, and even student group creation, ClassDojo brings a few unique items to the table. While short SEL lessons might not immediately seem like they contribute to classroom management, ClassDojo's Big Ideas mini activities around topics like "teamwork," "goal setting," and "courage" offer great opportunities to reflect on your class's goals or behavior. In addition to the student-group creator, the app also includes music, a timer, a noise meter, and a random student selector, among other features. So, even if the idea of awarding points for student behavior isn't your cup of tea, the other elements might be helpful -- or even fun -- tools for your elementary school classroom.

Read our full review of ClassDojo.

Honorable mention for whole-school use: ParentSquare

ParentSquare is like the serious, more practical older sibling on this list: It's less about showcasing student work and personal messages, and more about managing communication at the whole-school level. In fact, individual teachers can't set up a ParentSquare account on their own -- everything has to be associated with a paid school-wide account. But, if this is the solution your school or district uses, you have a lot of options, including the convenience of sending and submitting forms through the app. Parents can fill out forms, submit payments, and take surveys all in one place.

Read our full review of ParentSquare.

See everything we've considered

The tools we've called out here are a small slice of everything we've looked at. If you prefer to do your own evaluation, these Top Picks lists feature every tool we think passes muster:

You can also use our site's search to browse our full library of reviews.

Our criteria

To help organize our evaluation of school-to-home communication tools, we looked at a few key features and functionalities:

  • Translation: not just the number of languages, but how effectively the translation works across platforms.
  • Targeted communication: the ability to send and receive messages with a variety of audience types (i.e., an entire class, an individual caregiver, etc.).
  • Price: Is it free for teachers and -- most importantly -- families?
  • Availability across multiple device types and platforms.
  • Applicable for all K-12 grade levels.
  • Ease of onboarding.
  • Ease of use for adults who may not be comfortable with -- or may not have access to -- the latest technology. 

Why trust us?: Our evaluation process

Our team of editors and reviewers (all current or former educators and/or researchers) painstakingly looked at a wide variety of parent messaging platforms for deeper evaluation and consideration. Each app goes through a rigorous evaluation process by both a reviewer and an editor. This involves hands-on testing (including, in some cases, in classrooms or other real-world scenarios), rating according to our research-backed 15-point rubric, communication with developers and other educators, and finally a written review. We also consult our vast library of from-the-field reviews submitted by practicing educators. All told, each app undergoes at minimum four to six hours of testing and evaluation.

More information on our ratings and reviews

Is there something we missed? You can request a product for review using this form.