These Three Differentiators No Longer Set Your School Apart

Vol. 17 No. 11

PSN eletter vol17 no11 three

Parents want the best possible education for their children. As they shop different schools and programs, they will often ask, “What makes your school different?”

Many school administrators will respond with their school’s mission as well as its ability to prepare students for college, its dedication to academic rigor, and its focus on small class size and student-to-teacher ratio.

But, as it turns out, these three key elements are no longer differentiators for private-independent schools. Almost all schools—public, private, and charter—tout these benefits for their programs.

Here’s why these key differentiators no longer set your school apart.

We’re a college preparatory school

In today’s society and with job market needs, almost every K–12 school structures its offerings with college as a curricular end point. While preparing students for college may have been a differentiator in the past, as some focused on technical skills or weren’t positioned to help students attend college, today college is a relatively universal goal.

We offer rigorous academics

The term “rigor” is used repeatedly, but its meaning is ill-defined. Parents, faculty, and administrators often have different definitions of what rigor means so it has been difficult to come to a consensus on how a “rigorous” curriculum impacts students.

Furthermore, when a school does try to define rigor with statements like “We give more homework” or “We offer 12 AP courses,” this often fails to distinguish the school from the competition. It’s also difficult to prove that those elements actually benefit students—four hours of homework doesn’t necessarily result in more academic value, according to research.

We offer a low student-to-teacher ratio

Many schools highlight that they are individually attentive to students by expressing that they offer small class sizes. However, data from the National Center of Education Statistics shows that private and public schools have maintained a very similar student-to-teacher ratio in the classroom since the 1970’s.

Additionally, when a school states that it values small class sizes, that term can be relative. Some schools may feel that 22 students is a small class, while others believe 18 students is large.

These three differentiators are often trying to express the following message: We have a better atmosphere where your child will have individualized attention, receive the best education, and will be at an advantage in the future.

So what will set your school apart in a crowded marketplace and communicate that message to parents? Dr. Bryan Smyth, our Director of Research at ISM, shared his insight in our on-demand webinar, “The New Battleground: Four Features All Schools Must Have to Compete.” Click over to watch his webinar in full to find out how to communicate effectively and compete in today’s market.

Additional ISM resources for Gold members:
I&P Vol. 40 No. 11 Three Hallmarks That Lead Parents to Choose Your School
I&P Vol. 42 No. 12 We Need New Evidence for Old Meta-Messages
I&P Vol. 42 No. 5 The Real World Starts Now: College Prep Is No Longer Enough!

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