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Use Problems to Increase Student Engagement

The way your parochial school handles issues and the frequency with which issues arise play an important role in students’ and parents’ perception of their experiences.  How your students and parents perceive their experiences with your school shapes your school’s reputation and the relevance and effectiveness of your mission.

Students and parents fall into three groups:

Indifferent and disappointed students and parents are Disengaged

Students or parents who feel Comfortable in their relationship with your school are mildly engaged

Excited students and parents love your school and are highly engaged

It is important to know which group a student or parent falls in before beginning to resolve an issue.  Their level of engagement will tell you how hard or easy it will be to satisfy their expectations and provide a great solution.

If your parochial school is like most, more than half of your students and parents fall in the first two groups.  If a problem is resolved to their satisfaction, it will increase their engagement.  When a problem is handled well, it is a big win for your school (student engagement, parent engagement, sustainability, reputation, and positive comments on social media).

Those who love your school have high expectations.  The expectations may even be unrealistically high.  Resolving an issue will require a solution that meets high expectations.  A great solution that falls short of expectations can be perceived as a poor solution.  Therefore, there must be a clear understanding of the student’s or parent’s expectations before problem resolution begins.

Highly engaged students and parents typically have the highest success rates, provide the most positive social media comments, and provide the anecdotes and statistics that win the hearts of donors, other supporters, and your community.  Increasing the number of highly engaged students and parents is important to your school’s growing sustainability.  Since student and parent engagement is important, the change in engagement should be a success measure for every issue.

The cost of a problem is measured by the time, resources, and money required to address it.  A solution’s value is measured by its durability, the change in student engagement, the change in parent engagement, the change in your school’s reputation, the change in operating efficiency, the change in student outcomes (mission effectiveness), and the change in your school’s sustainability.  The cost of solving a problem is trivial compared to the value of having a great solution.

Next Step:

Determine each student’s level of engagement before attempting to resolve the problem

Determine how the student or parent will evaluate the success of the problem-resolution process

Provide the student or parent with a solution that increases their engagement

Use student engagement, parent engagement, and social media comments to evaluate the success of the resolution

Providing a family-centric solution demonstrates your commitment to being family driven.  A family-centric solution maximizes the value of your solution and the rest of your services to that family.  It also provides you with a competitive advantage over other schools.  While it is an advantage any competitor can replicate, it is an advantage that is very hard for an outside observer to detect.  It is a competitive advantage that is hidden in plain sight.

Once you have a family-centric solution, you have a model you can use to generalize the solution to fit the needs of all of your families.  This approach makes your solution scalable and further enhances your return on investment.

Every student or parent problem is a gateway to greater engagement.

Take It Further:

Use the same process to increase donor engagement when donors experience problems

Remind your board that the long-term impact or benefit from a student or donor problem is more important than the immediate cost

Set a goal: Every problem happens only once

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