SAMPLE SOLUTION #4: “Returned Mail”
(This is just a sample, posted by USDA to generate discussion.)
One of our challenges is simply getting the verification notice in the hands of parents. We struggled for years with returned mail. In some years the Post Office returned almost 10 percent of our verification notices as undeliverable. Returned mail is a costly problem; it takes a lot of staff time to update invalid addresses.
A few years back, a colleague from a neighboring school district suggested that we insert our verification notices in one of the packets of information that teachers routinely send home with their students. We gave it a try about five years ago and we’ve been doing it ever since. The process is simple. We print our verification letters and stuff them into envelopes in the district’s administrative office as we always have, but then we send them via interoffice mail to the principals in each of our 30 schools. The principals hand them to the teachers, and that’s it for us. We do the same with our reminder notices.
Our overall response rates ticked up a little bit, but the big improvement came in the number of parents who responded earlier in the process. Less time wasted on returned mail means that more parents get their notices right away. But a closer look at our response rates showed that we only saw improvement among parents of elementary school students. It turns out (no surprise!) that middle and high school students are less reliable couriers than younger kids.
So last year we made another change to our process. While we still hand deliver packets to all students, we send duplicate letters via U.S. mail to the parents of our middle and high school students. Yes, our returned mail problem remains a challenge, but it’s only half as great as it was 5 years ago since we don’t mail notices to the parents of our elementary school kids. And our response rate is noticeably higher.