What makes your K-12 school or district appealing to families? In this final installment of our five-part series on why and how families choose K-12 schools, you’ll learn the importance of innovation and programs in a family’s decision to enroll with you.

In a world of greater choice and innovation across K-12 education, parents and guardians have more say in how and where their children are educated. Why and how do families choose schools? Click here to start at Reason 1: School Brand and Reputation.

When it comes to school choice, families seek innovative institutions in general but also look for specific special programs — STEM, performing arts, dual-language immersion, career pathways, and such — to meet their children’s needs and passions. One way to cater to these families and boost your enrollment is to create special programs and promote how innovative your school is.

Group Of Elementary School Pupils Sitting On Floor In Classroom

The Importance of Innovation and Special Programs

Parents and guardians often seek new education options when their current school fails to accommodate their children’s learning needs and passions. Since school enrollment decisions are often made based upon opportunities to enroll in special programs, school leaders must continue to innovate, adapt, and listen to families in their community.

Consider this:

  • Unique and special programs can attract students from your wider geographic area, providing a great opportunity to drive enrollment from a larger pool of prospective families.
  • Graduates of schools with these special programs then become influential promoters of your school. This helps create a self-sustaining loop for attracting new students.
  • Innovation also applies to your teachers’ instruction and school systems.

Many families look to enroll their children in schools that provide an innovative education experience — for example, using cutting-edge instructional methodologies, having special technologies, having flexible scheduling, or offering unique experiences for students.

Additionally, platforms that enhance the family experience also build your reputation as an innovative school. This may be taking your enrollment process online or using a student behavior management platform that enables communication between teachers and families. Remember: innovation doesn’t just mean every student has a take-home computer. It also refers to things that make education a little less stressful and time-consuming for families.

Promote Your Programs and Innovation

So you have innovative teaching practices, state-of-the-art technology, and special programs that make your school stand out in your area. What should you do? You need to catch the attention of families so that they’ll enroll with you. Spread the good word throughout your community!

Here are a few ways you can do that:

1. Leverage Your Graduates

You can tell prospective families how great your programs are, but it’s far more effective when a graduate shares their experience and how it affected them into adulthood. If you don’t have testimonials from happy graduates, get some now! Reach out to them and ask if they’d be willing to provide a written or video testimonial for your website.

2. Tell the Story on Your Website

When a prospective parent or guardian lands on your website, they should be able to tell very quickly and easily that you offer something different from other schools they may be considering. For example, if you are an award-winning STEM school, make it apparent on your homepage through the visuals and information. Offer them an opportunity to learn more, whether that’s by contacting a specific teacher or by having a dedicated page to the unique programs you offer.

Bonus school website tip: ensure the accuracy of your school’s site. If your website is half-finished or is rife with broken links and error messages, families may assume your school is run in the same fashion. You may never find out that their enrollment journey with you ended online.

3. Conduct Family Surveys

How do you know what families want out of your school? You won’t know until you ask! Send out a survey to the parents and guardians in your community to see what programs they’d like to see in your school. You may even get a chance to surprise them with the good news that you do offer that awesome robotics lab or something else they weren’t aware you had. Doing this survey can help you identify gaps in your school’s enrollment marketing efforts.

4. Enlist Help from K-12 School Marketing Experts

Marketing is hard. School leaders are busy. Teachers are busy. When you have precious few seconds to yourself each day, you likely have little time to worry about whether your website is checking off every box needed to make your school easily searchable on Google or review sites.

The good news: with SchoolMint’s strategic marketing solutions for K-12 schools and districts, you don’t have to be the expert. Our team of enrollment marketing experts can help you identify areas for improvement on your site, evaluate your enrollment process from the perspective of a family, and much more! Click here to learn more.

On-Demand Webinar: How Families Choose Schools

Families have one objective when it comes to their child’s education: find the best school. From social skills to extracurricular interests and life lessons children take into their adult lives, families know that school teaches more than academics. And because of this, parents and guardians use multiple criteria to determine which school is best for their child.

On December 9, 2021, SchoolMint’s Chief Academic Officer and lead researcher, Dr. Chris Balow, hosted a 45-minute webinar about the five “family decision drivers” of K-12 Strategic Enrollment Management. You’ll learn about the topics covered in this series as well as:

  • What research tells us about declining student enrollment in K-12
  • How the five drivers guide each family to — or away from — your school
  • Negative and positive school factors that influence school choice decisions

Click the button below to view the on-demand recording!

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