In Texas, the STAAR (also referred commonly as the mandated standardized test – although the “test” seems redundant since the first “A” is for “assessment”) is the Spring standardized test administered to students of the Texas public school system (at various grade levels, there are different schedules). I am in Texas so it is the talk of the state about this time every year. Even McDonald’s offers free food to students taking the STAAR!
While the exam is mandated, the mandated standardized test has widespread disapproval by students, parents and even teachers (read what one Christian school teacher says about “teaching to the test”). Yes, there are those who approve and feel the necessity of it. But as a private school, you should target those dissatisfied public school families. These are families who are frustrated that the fun has been taken out of learning, that the anxiety level for their 3rd grader is too high, or convinced that their child is too young to wrestle with text anxiety.
Caveat #1: just because a family is unhappy in their public or homes school environment does not make them your “ideal family” – I do not wish to equate the two. Your ideal family is the type of family that can become a “loyal ambassador” who embodies the values of your school AND repeats and refers with great joy. In marketing, you are hoping to target your ideal family who is frustrated with their current educational choice.
Caveat #2: your school may administer standardized tests, or least be preparing your students for the college preparatory standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. You do not wish to convey a false sense that “we do not believe in standardized testing” because this could set you up for disillusioned parents later.
Here are 3 key considerations when marketing to your ideal family’s needs, pains, problems, frustrations and fears:
- Provide, Don’t Pounce – yes, it is easy to prey on the frustrations of public school families and wag your private school finger at (more…)
School is back in full swing! Your to-do lists are piling up and there is a great buzz on campus of a variety of different activities, not counting all the academic work!
Independent/private Christian schools need to think more about differentiation. This is what will set you apart in the marketplace. This will help you distinguish your school from other private nonsectarian schools as well as the public, charter and home school options around you.
Here are 7 activities that most schools do in the fall and an idea or two of how to optimize these activities in marketing your Christian school:
- Homecoming – because I live in Texas, Homecoming is always going to be in the fall although some schools I’ve worked with do it in conjunction with a winter or spring sport if they do not have football. At your Christian school, consider how Homecoming is different than at the public schools. While in Texas we have the crazy tradition of Homecoming mums (here’s an extreme example), your school may choose to do something in lieu of mums (traditional Texas mums can cost hundreds of dollars, which some students may choose to donate to a charity instead). Also, because your school likely smaller than your public school counterpart, you can recognize alumni differently, have alumni prayer gatherings before the Friday night game, and so much more. Homecoming can be a special event, but ask yourself: how different is what we do than our public schools around us? Carrying over some traditions is fun (HOCO dress-up days) but if you do not do anything unique, it might be worth looking at your annual traditions differently. Differentiation is critical to marketing.
- Grandparents Day – many elementary school across the country host a day for grandparents to come and visit the classroom and share a meal with their grandkids at their school. Again, if you’re school is smaller, perhaps you can do a special musical program or a performance by all of the students in elementary. Certainly you could involve your grandparents in a time of worship and prayer since you are not restricted by that like your public school colleagues are.
- Athletics – Cross Country, Volleyball, and Football are the most common fall sports, although your school may have others. How does your school differentiate itself at these sporting events? Do you pray before or after the game? Do you learn to integrate Scripture into your training of your athletes? Do you treat athletic training in the broader context of discipleship? How do you communicate striving for excellence but also enjoying the love of God? One school I worked with many years ago had an idea to launch a video series called, “The Making of a Kingdom Athlete.” They were already talking about spinning off a blog series and using the combination of written word and video to create vignettes to share with future families. The way you treat athletics should be noticeably different than the public schools.
- Fine Arts – whether it’s band on Friday night or some of the upcoming holiday performances (Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas), Fine Arts is a beautiful way to showcase your students’ talent. While you may lament that the size of Fine Arts program/facilities/equipment, how can you use your size to an advantage? Often at the large pubic school performances, there are limited solos. But at a smaller school, you can have more. While you still want to feature excellence, think of the different ways you can showcase individual talent. Your larger competitors simply cannot do that. This is an easy way to stand out.
- Annual Fund – most public schools do not have to have Annual Funds because they are funded by government sources. However at most privately-funded schools, the Annual Fund is a tool to bridge the gap between tuition revenue and the actual costs of school operations. The Annual Fund is a fundraising event, but it can be a great way to highlight the community aspect of your school. While outsiders may view it as a purely fundraising event, you can gather people together to pray for God to provide for the gap that exists. It also gives you plenty of opportunity to talk about some of the things your school is wanting to have in areas of facilities, technology, and safety. It provides a great platform to talk about the important things while future families listen in!
- Assessment – every school tests students, but it’s the government-mandated standardized testing that causes angst in parents and their kids. Often accused of “teaching to the test”, your private school does not have to abide by the same government standards (this is why it can be a great marketing tool for you). However, you can certainly talk about how you use benchmarks to assess your students’ academic progress (here’s how Eastern Christian talks about the difference). Parents do not like curriculum that is driven solely by a standardized test, however they want an excellent academic preparatory program. Use this differentiator to showcase you strong your academics are.
- Holidays – with Halloween, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, your schedules are full of holidays. Many Christian schools avoid Halloween (many public schools do as well), but you can showcase how you still have fun with various dress up days. Veterans Day is a great way for you to gather Veteran parents and grandparents for a celebration on your campus or you may want to ask to have your middle school or high school choir sing for veterans at a community-wide celebration. Because of the spiritual nature of Thanksgiving and Christmas (and how such spiritual connotation has been virtually removed from the public square), you should make sure and showcase your performances that talk about how you are “grateful to God” or in the context of celebrating the birth of Jesus.
This article is not meant to list out a thousand innovations – the point is to recognize that it is the way that your school treats the common factors is how future families will tell there is something different about you. Look for ways to take the commonly-shared experiences the public schools have and turn them into great marks of differentiation. Also, use this as a test to determine if you are any different than your competing private schools in the area. If you cannot find much difference, how do you expect a future mom or dad to find you unique?
I love helping schools create plans and strategize about reaching future families. If I can help you, please click here to schedule a 30-minute free phone consultation to learn about my coaching program specifically designed for Christian schools.
Randy Vaughn, Christian School Marketing Consultant
In Texas, we enter yet another week of state-level standardized testing, known now in our state as STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness).
For many parents of public school students, this is a dreaded week. As a parent of a very bright 3rd grader, I can tell you he is very anxious about it. Our child’s public elementary school is one of the best in the area, and he has a great teacher and wonderful administrative personnel. But STAAR week is a downer for most public school families.
Here are 5 ways you can turn this into a marketing opportunity: (more…)