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Want to beat the competition? Stay connected

This week, school choice advocates celebrated National School Choice Week. Billed as the “world’s largest celebration of opportunity in education,” organizers staged rallies and secured endorsements to raise awareness about education options available to America’s K12 students.

As organizers advocate for more competition among schools, public school leaders are forced to add yet another skill set to their professional repertoire: marketing. That, or risk losing students and the precious state and federal dollars that follow them to the competition. So how do you ensure your school emerges as the choice for parents and families?

At the end of the day, your district provides a service—a vitally important one. And as any service provider will tell you, listening to your customers should be priority No. 1.

Give parents a voice                                                                                                                           If you’ve been keeping up with us this week, we’ve already highlighted the importance of community engagement to address potential threats, fix broken schools, and empower parents to help their kids learn. Your ability to address these issues has a tremendous effect on how parents regard your schools.

It starts with listening—something superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green of the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina knows something about. A recent article in Getting Smart details a district-wide commitment to make parents more “involved, informed, intentional, and inspirational.”

The article points out that Green’s initiative includes workshops, educational videos, tutoring, and other resources for parents and guardians, so that they can help students with schoolwork at home.

So far, those efforts appear to be working. According to an annual district survey, parents’ confidence in the district’s mission increased by nearly 15 percent from 2009 to 2014.

Guildford County learned several lessons about the value of parent engagement through its efforts. Here are two to think about from the article:

Make it easy to participate                                                                                                       Online communication and outreach are two ways to keep parents informed when they can’t make in-person meetings or information sessions. Reaching parents in the way that’s easiest for them ensures they have a say in their students’ learning.

Never stop improving                                                                                                                             Make sure you’re addressing parents’ needs by asking for feedback and constantly evaluating your performance and make improvements as needed. Remember, good communication never stops—it’s a constant back and forth.

As National School Choice Week draws to a close, don’t be intimidated by the competition. Use what you know about parent engagement and communication to ensure your school or district remains the choice for students and families.

How do you engage parents and community members in your district? Tell us in the comments.