Public Schools Start 12-Step Program

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on how urban school districts around the country have launched marketing programs to lure students back from charters and neighboring districts after having lost large portions of their enrollment. 

This is the first step in their 12-step program — acknowledging that they have a problem and need to do something about it.  For all of you folks out there who doubt that public schools respond to competitive pressure (Rick Hess, Sol Stern, Mike Petrilli, Kevin Carey, etc…), how do you explain this response?

I know, I know they might respond that marketing is not a real response in that it does not involve actually improving school quality.  That’s true, but if the schools are doing things to improve, how would anyone know about it if the schools don’t market their strengths? 

And I would agree that a marketing campaign is not a sufficient response, but it is an important sign that they are noticing the competition and experiencing pain from losing enrollment.  They’ve acknowledge that there is a power higher than them… and it is the customer.

5 Responses to Public Schools Start 12-Step Program

  1. Dave Saba says:

    This is the beginning of choice driving improvements. First, there has to be more seats than kids so that schools have to compete. Second, there has to be a financial incentive to compete. Third, there has to be leaders who want to compete.

    Fourth – kids win as schools offer a better education to get kids back.

  2. Patrick says:

    Sixth, go to Vegas. 🙂

  3. Margo/Mom says:

    Actually, marketing, as understood by marketers, rather than educators, is an appropriate response. Marketing (as opposed to advertising–with which it is often confused) begins by understanding the needs of the market, and proceeds by creating or shaping the product to meet the needs of the market. There are other steps that involve distribution (getting the product to market) and advertising (making certain that the customer knows about the product and how it could meet their needs). If we understand parents to comprise the market (not a complete picture, but a good one for starters), and ignore their concern for their children learning in a safe environment, we may as well hand the students (and the public dollars attached to them) directly over to anyone who is able to grasp this and act on it.

  4. brett says:

    Margo/Mom nails this one. The first step a real marketer takes is to make sure they have a product worth marketing, and if not, fix it before wasting time promoting an inadequate product that the market will quickly suss out. As marketing guru Guy Kawasaki says, if your product doesn’t meet market needs, “get better reality” before going to market.

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