If your school offers a PreK program, you know the struggle of keeping those kinds continuing on to Kindergarten. Retention at this traditional “transition year” is a constant struggle (same for the transition from Elementary to Middle/Jr.High and then to High School). It is one of the topics covered in our on-demand premium course, “Retention: Keeping Your Best” (click here to purchase).
BARRIERS TO RETENTION
Here are 5 of the most common reasons why parents will not continue at your private school:
- FREE IS BETTER – the majority of parents may have been paying for private Pre-K, but as long as the public/charter schools in their area are strong, free is always a strong pull!
- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – whether it is the need for carpool help with neighbors or wanting to have more connections with people who are more geographically proximate, some parents resist the drive it might be to your school. If there is a strong Kindergarten nearby, why would they drive long distances?
- K-12 CONTINUITY – parents who are currently enrolled in a pre-K program that only goes through 4th or 8th grade will say they would prefer that their child start Kindergarten where they will finish. Perhaps they grew up in a public or private K-12 situation and never experienced what they might consider to be “transition trauma” for their child, so they choose a school they will be at for the remainder of their secondary education.
- ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION – some parents have opted for private preschool or Pre-K education, when they begin to think long-term, they are intrigued by alternate options (also see #1) such as homeschool or selection into a charter school.
- MORE OPPORTUNITIES – while you may have some of the sweetest, nicest and kindest Kindergarten teachers, parents often place a high priority on academic readiness. Whether we like or not, in today’s competitive world, technology, programs and facilities often distinguish one school from another in the minds of parents.
WHY YOU NEED TO KEEP YOUR KINDERGARTNERS?
The number reason you should do what you can to keep your Kindergartners is the long-term financial benefit!
Obviously, you have likely done the math. If you have just one Kindergarten who remains until 12th grade, this is likely a $100,000+ benefit to your school over the 13 years of their education (if you are a K-12 school). Even if you are only K4 or K8, you still benefit when you can retain a student rather than having to recruit a new family. Did I mention my course on retention where we cover 5 major topics on anchoring families to your school?
HOW TO KEEP MORE KINDERGARTNERS AT YOUR SCHOOL
- KNOW THE WHY – you have to make a clear case of why a parent should stay on through Kindergarten. This may seem obvious to you, but likely your insider emotion makes you say, “why would they go anywhere else?” In reality, perhaps the parents do not know why your Kindergarten is better than the other Kindergarten options in the area. Survey your current Kindergarten parents and ask them why they stayed. Especially if there are patterns in their responses, use this “market research” to tell you what to market to your potential Kindergarten families.
- ACADEMIC BENEFITS – in differentiating your Kindergarten, clearly articulate why your Kindergarten program is academically superior to your competition. Yes, this will require you being somewhat aware of what the other public/private/home/charter schools cannot offer. And do not be afraid to point out these differences to your current Pre-K families or other potential moms or dads checking out your Kindergarten. Offer a “Checklist for Choosing the Best Kindergarten” and indicate where you shine, especially if you know your competition is weak. Then distribute or offer this checklist to parents and invite them to compare line-by-line to what you have to offer. If you offer Arabic or Spanish in your Kindergarten classes and the others do not, then this is a HUGE part of your marketing message. If you have a specific curriculum that others do not, explain how your curriculum is better. Yes, this means you have to point out the faults of other schools, but you can do it in a nice, discreet way without going super negative.
- GET-TO-KNOW THEM – if you have 2 Kindergarten teachers (let’s say for this post they are both female), then make sure these ladies hang out a lot in the Pre-K classrooms, hallways and at pickup lines. You want your 4-year olds to love these ladies so much that they would cry their eyes out if mom tells them they are attending Kindergarten somewhere else! (ha) Parents should be extremely familiar with the personality, teaching philosophy, and character of your Kindergarten teachers. Have them come once-a-week to your 3s or 4s and read to them in a fun way that makes them excited about transitioning up to Kindergarten with these teachers. Have these ladies reach out through emails or hand-written notes to parents of your 3s and 4s throughout the year so that they are well aware of the many things you have planned for their son or daughter during their Kindergarten year.
- INVITE THEM UP – in the same way your Kindergarten teachers should mingle among the younger kids and their parents, you should have a monthly “Kindergarten Open House” or “Kinder Showcase” where 4s and their parents can explore the fun things the current Kindergarten students get to do. Make it a fun event, give out prizes (to the parents, too) and this could turn into one of your biggest recruiting efforts!
- TELL STORIES OF SUCCESS – get started right away in curing stories of success in written, audio or video format. They can be institution successes or individual stories of success. These are young students without all the extracurricular showcase opportunities, but highlight their personal stories of success anyway! One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current Kindergarten parents to write a review online on Facebook, GreatSchools.org or on your school’s Google listing. Even going to parents of older elementary schools can testify to how well prepared your Kindergarten kids are compared to other schools.
- MAKE YOUR KINDER EXPERIENCE THE BEST – it may be the “Kindergarten Dress-Up Day” or a Christmas pageant, but create a phenomenal event for your Kindergarten students that they will insist they want to participate in. Make it such a “WOW! factor” that parents will ignore other schools because they will want their kids to have this experience. The key is truly making it unique! Your dress-up day has to be so much better than the dress-up days they might do at other schools. Your Christmas pageant should be so off-the-charts that local media want to cover it! Do an inventory this year and determine if you can raise up your Kindergarten experience to a whole other level!
Managing these transition years is one of the areas I talk about with 1-on-1 clients through our marketing coaching programs. If you are interested in learning more and getting a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation, click here to get started.
If you want to navigate our premium course on your own time, I would also encourage you to purchase your copy of “RETENTION: Keeping Your Best”!Buffer