• Charter Schools
3 Things You Didn't Know Are Hurting Your Charter School's Retention Rates
Anthony Mitchell

Your parent satisfaction surveys came back with overwhelmingly positive results. Your students are scoring higher on state testing than the regional average. You even upped your social media game this year with more community engagement than ever before. Your charter school seems to be doing everything right. 

So why are you still having retention issues? 

School experts tend to skip over the “easy stuff” that they take for granted. When it comes to things like student retention, it’s likely that the problem isn’t that cool drone shot you wanted to be commissioned for the home page but couldn’t get sign-off for, it’s something much simpler. With that in mind, here are three things that might be hurting your Charter School’s retention enrollment rate. 

1. You’re not clearly explaining enrollment procedures.

I know that this might sound like the “is your router plugged into the wall” portion of a customer service call, but it’s true! Occam’s razor would suggest that if a seemingly happy family doesn’t re-enroll for the new school year, they might just not have known. It might seem obvious to you and me as industry professionals, but charters are subjected to enrollment standards that are different and more stringent than the public schools with which most families are familiar. Lottery systems and annual re-enrollment aren’t cursory in many school systems. Without proper education on the process, the enrollment deadline might not seem as urgent to parents as it truly is. 

Ensuring that families know whether they need to re-enroll when their deadline is, and how to complete the process is critical in helping prevent families from dropping the ball and not being able to bring back their children. 

Finalsite’s Inbound Marketing Platform offers a couple of tools to draw a viewer’s attention to important information and direct site traffic to whatever material you see fit. 

“Pop-ups”perhaps deservedly sodon’t have the best reputation on the internet. They can be intrusive, flashy, ubiquitous, and most importantly, effective. No matter which way you slice it, the most meticulously planned website flowchart still isn't as effective as putting information right in front of the viewer’s eyes. Finalsite’s more elegant solution, Timed Page Pops, allow schools to mitigate some of the most common pop-up grievances: disrupting the user’s experience and offering no extra benefit or value. 

Timed Page Pops are an evolution of our current Page Pops which use a screen overlay and allow you to add photos, videos, content, and links to get as creative as you’d like and specify when they begin and end. They include all the same options as Page Pops, with the added ability to “delay” a notification until a visitor has spent at least 7 seconds on a page (up to 60 seconds), or delay the notification until the user has scrolled 50 percent down the page.

Example gif of someone delaying Timed Page Pops until 10 seconds

As a charter school looking to make sure you’re keeping parents informed of re-enrollment protocol, a page pop can take it one step further and be configured to feature a form which allows a parent to take action. The more convoluted the actual enrollment process becomes, the less likely a parent is to cross the finish line. This brings us to the next issue you might be facing.

2. You’re not making it easy.

Nobody wants to download a PDF, fill it out by hand, and scan it back over to the school or worse yet, need to pop into your school office for a paper application. If you can save parents from a trip to the FedEx office, you’re already winning hearts and minds, increasing the likelihood that they will stick around.

Charters often serve a lower income demographic. According to research conducted by the Center for Research Education Outcomes (CREDO),  55% of charter students come from low-income families.

bar graph showing that charter schools have a higher percentage of students from low income households than public schools

When you consider this Pew Research data that suggest almost half of low income households don’t have a computer, it becomes evident that Americans are increasingly reliant on smartphones as their only way to access the internet. 

A truly “mobile-first” design with an easy-to-use form that maintains full functionality across all platforms is therefore critical in enabling parents to enroll their students. Finalsite Forms Manager accomplishes just this; it allows anyone to quickly create forms which are responsive and accessible on all devices.

The Purnell School in Pottersville, NJ is a Finalsite client which has been able to streamline this process for its parents; their online application page is completely powered by Finalsite Forms Manager. 

online application example powered by Finalsite Forms Manager

(The full document is 8 pages, this is just a snippet) 

We have written more extensively on creative ways to use this tool here; if you’d like to learn more read: 5 Awesome Examples and Best Practices for Forms Manager. 

3. You’re Not Refining Messaging or Following-Up

While we would like to think that every parent in our community is using their lunch break to log onto the school website and bask in the glory that is our beautiful site design; this isn’t the reality. We can send written reminders home and tweet until our thumbs cramp, but the most effective way to reach parents and convey information is still going straight to the source. 

Finalsite Messages allows us to track our email campaigns and the subsequent engagement from parents. It displays email engagement analytics in an easily digestible activity log.

This allows us to refine our messaging at a macro level and see which emails resonate most with parents and garner the most engagement. At the micro level, we can see which parents need a follow-up reminder or even a phone call to make sure nobody is left in the dark. If you’d like some more coaching on how to use the new Finalsite Messages module to streamline your email marketing efforts, I’d encourage you to check out this webinar

interface for Finalsite Messages, used by charter schools for follow-up

Key Takeaways

You can never be too cautious or over explain with something as important as enrollment procedures. Make sure there are clearly defined processes that can be carried out anywhere with web access to guarantee success.

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Anthony Mitchell Headshot

Anthony graduated from The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU and joined Finalsite’s business development team in 2018. Anthony is a broadcaster and storyteller by nature, working closely with public schools and charters across the country to help them uncover their story.

  • Email Marketing
  • Inbound Marketing
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