At the School Growth Innovation Lab in Los Angeles last week I was reminded of the importance of knowing families in our target community at a deeper level. As we considered the characteristics, fears, and goals of these families, our attention turned to more effectively learning from them and adjusting the value proposition of the school to sustainably grow quality and enrollment.
This picture features some of the activities and people in our LA Lab. They were an enthusiastic group that collectively were willing to think differently about their respective growth strategies and genuinely wanted to pursue a path of unique genius.
School designers ask great questions
School designers ask great questions because they want to overcome the confirmation bias that causes invalid assumptions. This lens through which you see your community seeks to match your expectations, causing you to think selectively and sometimes distorts the facts.
During the Lab I shared four questions that can provide valuable insight for the school's leadership to make some informed decisions.
1. To current and prospective families, consider asking: As a parent, what is your biggest concern for your child?
Answers might include: College entrance, Finding purpose, Leadership development, Survival, Faith development, Athletic development, and so on. This helps uncover those areas that have the highest influence on their decision to choose a school. You want to know what is keeping them up at night or causing them to pop the antacids.
2. How important is it to you that your child’s school has...?
Options might include sports, smart boards, ebooks, great teachers, laptops, playgrounds, after school programs, and so on. Parents could rate each option based on the following criteria: Not Important, Somewhat Important, Important, Critically Important. This helps you gauge the impact of specific elements of your school to determine how important this is to your families. You can ask a follow up question that seeks feedback on their perception of how your school delivers on their top priority areas.
3. To families that chose to enroll at a different school, your question is: What was the primary reason you chose another school?
Respondents could choose one or more of the following: Curriculum, Friends, Technology, Location, Money, Teachers, Coaches, Transportation, Athletics, Arts, Other programming, etc. Learning from those who didn't enroll at your school (after receiving information, taking a tour, or maybe even completing the entire admission process) gives you valuable data to improve your people, your processes, and your programs.
4. To gauge the degree of commitment that families have to your school, the ultimate question is: How likely are you to recommend our school to your family and friends?
Family loyalty is the foundation of any school growth strategy, driving re-enrollment and word-of-mouth marketing. Respondents choose from the the following options: Not likely, Somewhat likely, Likely, Very Likely.
Your goal is, of course, to have a high degree of excited families who are passionate about the school and are actively willing to share about their commitment.
What questions would you add to inform your school design and enhance your value proposition?