THE METHOD SCHOOLS BLOG

Top Four Reasons Parents Choose a Specific Charter School

Oct 28, 2015 8:23:00 AM
Mark Holley
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"If you build it, they will come."
Not necessarily! I used to think that this phrase from one of my favorite movies applied when it came to building and marketing schools to K-12 families. Today, not so much. Parents have so many new and exciting school options to choose from. This blog will focus on charter schools. Not why parents choose charter schools in general, which has been the topic of many blogs, but which factors parents take into account when selecting a specific charter school for their child.

Today, it takes more than just building a high-quality charter school to enroll students. Like other industries that have been disrupted, the bar has been raised. We've seen that bar inch upward as we've enrolled students at Method Schools. Based on over 1,500 families who have expressed interest or enrolled their students at Method, here are the top four reasons people choose to enroll in a specific charter school - whether Method or another school.

 

1. Reputation

Increasingly, online reviews, such as those from Google, GreatSchools or Yelp, are becoming the most influential source of information for families (normally parents) when looking for a new charter school. These online reviews provide an at-a-glance resource for parents when researching schools. They provide a benchmark that builds reputation and positions the school in a certain what for parents. "Offline" research, such as a referral from a friend or counselor, is, not surprisingly, another key factor in choosing a school. Again, these referrals and reviews position schools as having a good reputation or a poor one. When it comes to enrolling students, a school is only as good as its reputation. 

 

2. Curriculum

For parents, curriculum is close to reputation when it comes to choosing a school. Specific pedagogy, course selection, and format (blended, project-based, online only, traditional) are all part of curriculum in this case. After hearing about Method Schools from family or friends, a counselor, or from an online review or search, the next questions they normally ask have to do with curriculum and instructional format. Not all schools use the same curriculum, even with all of the many standardization requirements public charter schools are faced with. There absolutey is variation in curriculum, and there are good, and bad, examples of this variation out there. Parents know that what their student learns matters!

 

3. Convenience

Convenience is a very logistical influenencer. Choosing a school is really a life-altering decision for families. It's an investment in time today and much more for the future. Even with great a reputation and curriculum that a parent deems a good fit for their child, the school must be convenient. There are so many good options out there when choosing a school that parents can be much more selective today. Remember the day when our location determined what school we went to? In most cases, those days are long gone. And while online schools have disrupted traditional schools, and introduced an element of convenience that wasn't available even a few years ago, even these virtual schools can introduce a level of inconvenience that might not have been anticipated initially by parents. Basic thought here: if it doesn't work, it doesn't matter how good the school is.

 

4. Quality of Teachers1

Surprisingly, this isn't the most important feature for parents when choosing a charter school according to the data we've accumulated over the past 18 months. However, it's one of the biggest reasons why students transfer from charter (and traditional public) schools. So, when it comes to retaining students, teacher quality is essential. And when those students who have a bad experience with a teacher do leave, undoubtedly their parents place teacher quality at the top of the list when choosing their student's next school. 
I doubt any of these factors are surprising. But, they do reinforce the realities of the current school market in many states, including California. Today, parents have lots and lots of choices. In some cases, maybe even too many choices for the existing market to support, but that's debatable. Either way, just building a school won't guarantee it fills, except in rare cases where there just aren't enough options to choose from. Today's parents and students are very savvy and selective when it comes to choosing the right school.
What do you think? Do you have other reasons for choosing a charter school that I haven't outlined above?

1I've seen research, and even conducted my own, that places teacher quality at the top of the list for parents when it comes to what they value most in their child's education. This blog deals with why parents actually take action and choose the charter schools they do, and it's based on interest and/or actual enrollments at Method Schools, which are blended learning charter schools located in Southern California. 
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