Historically, a child's school was determined by the invisible boundary line that someone arbitrarily drew through the neighborhoods of a geographical location. Those lines became a map of assignment determining which school residents would attend. The landscape of enrollment in California is suddenly vastly different due to open enrollment. We’re outside of our comfort zone, outside of our wheelhouse, and have entered the land of having to learn how to market our school district to keep parents and students invested and engaged so that they don’t decide to transfer.
We’re going to explore this topic quite a bit over the next few weeks, and we’ll be unpacking some of the key points to leveraging technology in order to make our schools more appealing to parents and students. But first, let’s explore some of the factors that parents and students consider as they select their school/district.
Parents want continuity for their kids.
It’s a proven fact that keeping the same continuous group of friends from elementary school to high school means a better educational experience overall. Separate from that, a lot of families see the benefit of the same school system for the student’s entire K-12 journey. With this in mind, parents are choosing kindergarten and elementary schools based on the goal of keeping their kids on the same track all the way through high school.
A school’s reputation matters too.
Because of the advent of communication methods like social media, a school’s reputation is much more readily available than it was even 20 years ago. Parents and students are opting to forego schools with problematic histories, institutions that lack certain credentials, or even schools that just don’t provide certain amenities. On the flip side, families are seeking districts with specific opportunities, processes, or engagement. For example, a district-wide digital curriculum might hold more value for parents who are looking for a more progressive education for their children. If there’s an assumption that there is a major benefit for one school system over another, many families will gravitate there.
We’re growing accustomed to a lot of choices.
Many cultural and lifestyle factors can affect which school a family chooses. In this day in age, we’re used to having choices available for just about everything. In addition to the reputation of a school or district and the desire parents have for their kids to have stability and continuity throughout their education, travel is becoming a contributing factor for some families. In certain regions of California, for example, it’s too expensive for many families to live in the major cities in which they work, so they live in neighboring communities but commute to work daily. This could mean that you’re suddenly competing with districts throughout your region because parents can easily bring their kids along for part (or all) of their commute. Your competition just got a lot wider, and we haven’t even begun to discuss charter schools and how much they’re changing the landscape of enrollment.
Districts have to fight for average daily attendance.
All these examples illustrate that we have to start thinking about enrollment like any free market product. Sometimes districts try to make transferring more trouble than it’s worth, but that's a losing battle. If parents really want the best for their students (and the data says that they do), they will find a way to get their child transferred. The truth is that if you want to optimize your average daily attendance, it’s time to start integrating some free market principles into your playbook. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to explore they ways that technology can contribute.
This video gives you a clue about next week's blog, which will explain some
of the ways you can start working toward maximizing your ADA.