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Staying Positive: Key to Staying Competitive

Earlier today, the Senate HELP committee approved recommending Betsy DeVos to a full Senate vote as the nation’s next Education Secretary.

DeVos’ nomination has set off a heated debate over the future of America’s public education system, specifically the role of school choice and voucher programs in federal policy decisions.

While some education advocates contend that school choice siphons students and funding away from public schools, others say the competition is a good motivator for improvement.

Regardless of your political bent, one thing is clear: the school choice conversation isn’t going away anytime soon. Fortunately, there are some steps school leaders can take to make their schools stand apart from the competition.

That’s the goal of Houston-based Go Public Gulf Coast—and organizers say it starts with writing a positive narrative about your schools.

As the group’s leader, Bob Covey, told the Houston Chronicle:

“I don’t want to see public schools losing attendance. I don’t want to see schools with less money and without enough money to educate their students. I’d like to see more people out there being very proud of public school education.”

Ready to get loud and proud about your school district? Here’s a few ways that a positive narrative can help your school or district capture market share.

Tell the real story

“Public schools are failing our students.”

This is a common refrain of public school opponents. But it’s simply not true. School leaders need to do a better job telling the other side of that story, posits Go Public Gulf Coast.

“If we want to make a difference, we need to get our allies together and get moving,” Houston ISD trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones told the Houston Chronicle. “Our narrative needs to be written by us and not them.”

In a response to recent rhetoric about the failure of public schools, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) released a list of achievements public school leaders should be proud of. The list included, among other things, higher than ever graduation rates, more students attending college than ever before, and upgraded technology systems for better student experiences.

NSBA’s list is a good place to start if you’re looking to rewrite perceptions on public school success.

It’s OK to brag

At Rockford Public Schools in Illinois, Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett’s “first choice” vision builds on this concept of writing your own narrative.

“The ‘first choice’ vision is at the heart of our strategic plan,” writes Jarrett in a recent op-ed for the Rockford Register Star. “It is guiding improvement that allows us to proudly answer the question: ‘Why should I send my child to RPS 205?’”

Jarrett outlines several reasons for families to choose Rockford Public Schools. Improved academic scores, special immersion program offerings, and new school facilities and buildings among them.

In this increasingly competitive environment, school leaders must do more than lead schools to success; they must actively tell the story of that success. And, yes, says Jarrett and others, it’s OK to brag.

Say ‘yes’ to customer service

A good story goes a long way. But only so far as your district can live up to the reputation that precedes it.

That’s especially true in critical areas, such as community engagement. Parents and students and teachers say they want more responsive schools. In some cases, what they want is better customer service.

Writing for Forbes, customer service expert Micah Solomon says schools need to learn to say  “yes” more.

“There’s great power in getting everyone in your organization to share a goal of getting to a ‘yes’ for every customer, rather than figuring out ways to say ‘no,’” he writes.

Is your staff committed to meeting the needs of families and students, no matter what?

How can you use a positive narrative to keep your schools competitive? Tell us in the comments.

Want more strategies for achieving better school market share? Read Competition is coming. Why your schools need to innovate.