When it comes to student enrollment there are winners and there are closures. As charter schools grow in popularity, private and public schools are fiercely competing with one another to fill their schools’ seats. Those unable to adapt to changes in the education industry, and effectively market their schools are shutting down.
On the other side of the spectrum, many schools are surpassing their student enrollment goals and waiting list applicants. How are they able to maintain their competitiveness? While there is no single formula to solving a school’s student enrollment challenge, social media and content marketing is increasingly being leveraged to win over prospective parents and students. Let’s take an inside look at how a handful of public schools have positioned themselves as the top choice.
1. Pinellas County School District
After introducing innovative technology, arts, and languages programs, the Pinellas schools are experiencing an enrollment boost for the first time in a decade. Now parents remark with pride: “my child goes to this school.” Their school district leaders could have assumed that with these new changes, parents would rush to register their children with the schools. Instead, they expanded their marketing strategy to include invitation-only open houses, direct mail, social media community building, and a robust web platform. According to district figures, their new programs successfully attracted 181 students from local schools with their own and competing school districts in 2014.
2. Miami-Dade County Schools
Miami-Dade County District is comprised of both public and charter schools–52,000 charter school students make up 15% of their district’s student population.
Lynn Norman-Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools, accredited the boost in the district’s enrollment to “a combination of innovation, customer service, and the ability to tweak a program and give parents and kids what they want.”
The district’s commitment to increasing parental involvement is one of the key factors to their success. The school district’s website provides a secure portal for safe and private communication amongst parents, students, and staff. It also includes an entire section dedicated to parents with various resources, highlights, and tools.
3. Breakthrough Schools
Breakthrough Schools is the highest-performing network of free, public charter schools in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2014, their student performance was 43% higher than other schools in their city.
Their website highlights their students’ achievement and chart-breaking accomplishments with a modern design that mirrors the innovative principles of their education model. Their website engages site visitors—including prospective students and parents—with interactive, multi-media tools. Prospective students and parents can not only read about the school, but also experience their school’s classrooms in action through video.
The video resources featured on Breakthrough Schools’ website describe their school’s education model. They also share videos recorded by teachers and supporting staff members on their schools’ social media pages. On Facebook and Twitter, they typically post videos that are humorous and give an intimate look at the people—students, teachers, parents—who are part of their community.Their video and photographic content has been extremely effective at raising mass awareness and excitement over their school’s innovative education model. This recent video posted on their Facebook page, for instance, attracted over 2 million views.
Their social media content tells a unique story that moves beyond highlighting student performance metrics—vividly showcasing their staff’s innovative teaching strategies, and students’ passion for learning. It’s no surprise that parents and students across Cleveland are excited by the prospect of becoming part of their school. Breakthrough Schools’ ability to inspire people from and beyond their city may even allow them to be more financially sustainable in the future.
4. Alpine School District
Across the nation, many publics schools are struggling to compete with charter schools despite increasing their marketing efforts. In Utah, most of the state’s student growth is occurring in charter schools, and almost half of their public school districts are losing students. The Alpine School District, in spite of this trend, experienced the highest net increase in students compared to other public schools in Utah. How did they do it, and more importantly, how can other public schools successfully compete with better-resourced charter and private schools?
Alpine School District’s website outshines other school districts in the region–their website functions as both an information hub and interactive do-it all platform. It is full of informative, engaging resources for both current and prospective families. Parents can learn about upcoming events, register their kids for student tests, access information shared during school community meetings, share feedback with the school and more!
Alpine School District uses its blog to educate less web-savvy visitors who may lack online literacy skills. After updating their website’s menu to make it easier to navigate, for instance, they wrote an entire blog post explaining each menu item’s functional value for students, parents, and general visitors.
They’re also extremely active on Facebook and Twitter, with over 4,400 total followers on the two social networks combined. Through their blog and social media channels, Alpine School District engages parents who are considering or already a part of their schools in a cohesive online community.
Increasing student enrollment is becoming a challenge for public, private and charter schools alike. With the rise of the charter school movement, parents are being given more freedom to choose which school their children will attend. They’re researching information on a school’s culture, programs and curriculum online when selecting which school to apply for. Does your school do an adequate job of proving to parents that your school is the right school for their children? The schools highlighted above are telling a unique story on their website and social media channels that attract parents to their school.