5 characteristics of a great school and 5 simple ways to promote them to increase student enrollment
It’s summertime and a lot of us are reading, reflecting, looking for new books to read, reviewing handbooks, trying to come up with themes for the new school year and in general not relaxing at all :-D.
Part of my reflection is thinking about what makes a great school and how to promote that greatness to increase student enrollment. This is also the time when parents from other schools may begin to look for new schools as their children move from one grade to the next. This is a great opportunity for us to begin planting the seeds of change in their minds.
One of the difficult aspects of our public school system, however, is that it’s hard to differentiate one school from the other. As schools of choice, charter schools and perhaps an impending voucher system for every state proliferate, standing out becomes more difficult.
These days districts with money are using radio spots, billboards, and the backs of city buses to promote their schools. There are lower cost and far easier ways to get the word out about our schools.
First we need to Identify our 5 characteristics of greatness and use these 5 simple strategies to promote them. We can use these easy to implement strategies to stand out in a crowded educational field. This will help our schools stay top of mind when families begin thinking of the best place for their child.
This isn’t easy for a public school because we have to be everything for everybody. This makes it hard to be unique. One of the advantages that private and charter schools have is their ability todefine their own niche. A private school can be religion based and focused solely on a particular faith. Charter schools can have a specific theme or cater to specific ethnicities.
As a public school finding our focus is essential to increasing school enrollment. This has traditionally been done through an emphasis on things like athletics or band. In today’s technological age, what are ways we can stand out from the crowd? Answering this question will help us be unique.
Remember, regardless of whether you’re a newly established principal or a veteran you are an expert at what you do. You know exactly what the students need to do to be successful and you’re able to deliver it. The families in your community need you and your school’s particular expertise. Once you identify your unique school culture the next step is spreading the word.
So how do we deliver this information? The easiest way to do so is to use social media. Presumably your school already has a Facebook account. If it doesn’t, start one. According to Facebook stats,Facebook has the largest number of users between 25 and 35. That is a prime age for beginning families. Leverage your demographic data and use a social media platform to meet your families where they are. Use pictures and the smiling faces of your staff and students from the previous year to show how welcoming and safe your school is.
While, as public schools we have to accommodate everyone, we can still specialize in certain areas. Using social media will help spread your unique characteristics.
Another way to stand out is to be dependable. Based on the change in leadership, every few years schools lurch from one new directive to the next. This fosters uncertainty and parents aren’t sure from year to year what their child is going to get. Being consistent in your offerings helps parents know what they’re going to see when they come in for their second and third child. With that expected way of doing things the parents and the staff can confidently state what is happening year to year and promote your school. No one likes instability. Being unstable will creates anxiety among your stakeholders and make choosing another option more likely. Be dependable and not only will families stand by you they’ll sell your school for you.
The most dependable assets at a school are also the greatest asset. The staff. Often we forget that they can do more than just teach. They have hundreds of contacts in their own email and social media accounts. Use them to help spread the word of how dependable and stable your school is. Once a month pass something onto them that they can share with those with whom they have influence. It could be as simple as a picture of them working with their students. Add a brief caption about how great the students are and send it to their friends and families asking them to share it with their friends. As the end of the year approaches have the teachers spread the word that they’ll be back and and are excited to see the new crop of kids. If this becomes a consistent practice you'll be surprised how far the word spreads.
Passion for our work is the secret ingredient and leads to sustained excellence. If you think of the great Principals they demonstrate enthusiasm on a daily basis. This enthusiasm helps principals promote their school because they're the first ones at the door in the morning greeting families, students, and staff as they come in.
An enthusiasm for the work can also lend itself to the creation of content. If you’re excited about the things you do particularly well, spread the word. Your school might have small learning communities or have a great curriculum. Write a blog post or an article highlighting the researched based reasons these unique qualities positively impact your students’ growth.
These families that you greet every day, you have them on an email list. In marketing this is one of the most valuable commodities because it give you direct access to those families. Use that list to share your content. Ask them to forward the email to families who might be interested in seeing the good things your school is doing.
Collaboration is something that we all know intuitively is something we should do consistently, but sometimes we get so caught up trying to get something done that we forget. Gathering the advice and listening to the point of view of those on our staff is important in building a strong culture and helps lead to successes. Treating your entire staff as integral parts of a whole, creates the opportunity for more wins.
Families might not be able to see that collaboration first hand but they will see the impact of it. Staff will be happier and more involved and this will spill over into how the students are treated.
A great way to share the those successes that come through collaboration is through Twitter. Twitter is a great way to give a distilled version of events. Where on Facebook there’s the opportunity to expand on updates, Twitter forces you to be concise. A great way to connect to parents is through a school twitter account. Keep parents in the loop so they can feel a part of the community as well. I’ve also seen schools tweet out school events like band concerts and athletic contacts. In addition, because you have limited time you can simply grab headlines from your Facebook posts and tweet those out including a link back to your Facebook page
Schools with a growth mindset are always learning. They don’t rest on past accomplishments and continually look for ways to improve. Just like people with a growth mindset aren’t afraid of failure, schools with a growth mindset aren’t afraid to try new things and look for ways to innovate. Just like collaboration spills over from staff to students so does the growth mindset. Students with the growth mindset tend to have more grit and are more likely to find long term success. This grit is easily seen in the intense looks and focused concentration students have when working on new tasks.
Sharing these pictures is a great way to let parents know how hard their child is working. Using a school Instagram account to capture these moments and share with families is another way to promote your school’s culture. Instagram is visual based and is most often only comprised of simple pictures with captions like “hard at work”. For busy principals with a visual style it only takes a minute to say a thousand words.
Successful Principals and by extension schools promote themselves with their one of a kind offering, dependability, enthusiasm, collaboration and growth mindset. Using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, leveraging your staff, and sharing your enthusiasm for education through content creation are quick easy ways to spread the positive word. These simple strategies can help you maintain and increase your student enrollment.
What are other tactics you use to stand out and what are ways that you connect and spread the word to your families? Share your thoughts in the comment section below
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I'm a Principal and an Entrepreneur. I'm the former owner of a food venture Hustling Hoagies, the author of the children's picture books Detective Dwayne Drake and the Alphabet Thief, Detective Dwayne Drake and The Case of the Mathematical Misfit and the ebook Making it as a Male Model in Michigan. I've worked professionally as a model and commercial actor......