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Staying Competitive in School Choice Era: 3 Strategic Ideas

As the number of educational options for students continues to increase, educators and advocates in Oakland, Calif., are teaming up to help families more easily enroll in their school of choice.

The Oakland School Finder is an online application that aggregates information about area schools into one unified search wizard, reports Julie Brown Hunt in EdSurge. Parents can search for schools that meet specific criteria, such as strong arts programs or an emphasis on special education, for instance.

A separate platform then allows parents to fill out one single application for all the schools they’re interested in.

The new enrollment program, a joint effort between Oakland Unified School District (OASC) and the non-profit Enroll Oakland Charters (EOC), aims to simplify what was once a time-consuming and confusing selection process.

Oakland isn’t the first school district to unify its enrollment process. Cities such as Newark, Denver, and Washington, D.C., have implemented similar systems in recent years.

For many public-school advocates, the rise of such systems is an affirmation that school choice is taking hold in their communities, Brown writes.

As the number of educational options increase in your community, here’s three swift actions that could help keep your schools a step ahead of the competition.

1. Do a community feedback survey

Staying competitive means addressing students’, parents’, and the community’s needs.

But do you know what those needs are?

A school- or district-wide survey is among the easiest and most comprehensive ways to invite feedback and understand the challenges your students and families face.

Showing your community that you’re listening is key to keeping them engaged and satisfied. Just make sure your survey is followed up with clear readouts about what you learned from those conversations, and what you’re doing as a result.

2. Revamp your district brand

“Brand awareness” sounds like a marketing term, but it simply refers to how your community perceives your schools.

Is your district perceived as innovative, or stuck in the mud? Do your schools have a reputation for personalized instruction, or are they seen as struggling to reduce class size? All of this contributes to your brand.

3. Start planning your next initiative

Success won’t come by operating on autopilot. Your community wants to see constant improvement.

Example: Say you just successfully implemented a new 1:1 tablet program. That’s great. Take a minute to pat your team on the back, and tell people about it. But don’t stop. You should already be planning your next move.

Your community’s loyalty is directly tied to your district’s commitment to service and performance. The best schools go out of their way to consistently improve on both fronts.

What do you think of these ideas for staying competitive in the age of choice? What other steps is your school or district taking to keep restless families from choosing out? Tell us in the comments.

Want more ideas? Read For schools, how to help parents and students make the smart choice.