All Schools Are Not Equal
Nor Should Be Your Marketing Investment
By Bob Stimolo
Four decades of marketing to schools and educators have convinced me that the affluence of the community in which a school is located is critical to the success of any marketing effort. Numerous clients have contended that funding programs such as Title I create a level playing field with schools in wealthier communities but I have never found this to be the case. Schools in wealthier communities spend Title I money on materials whereas schools in poorer communities spend it on teacher salaries.
Blame it on No Child Left Behind
After 16 years of the disaster known as No Child Left Behind, our education system is polarized. The schools in affluent communities have more money, better teachers, and administrators that are more able. In addition, these able administrators receive more funding from grants including programs such as Title I.
No Child Left Behind was a program intended to bring equality to our education system, but it did exactly the opposite. When a school was tagged as “failing” the better educators left for better schools. Sixteen years later, we have the better educators in the best schools and the struggling educators in the worst schools.
A Stagnant Education Market
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there is no significant enrollment growth in the near future. One of the challenges we face as school marketers is how to achieve growth in a stagnant market. It makes sense that if we consider all schools equally qualified as potential buyers our profit and loss statements will look as stagnant as the projected enrollment growth. However, if we focus on the schools that have the most money, and in particular that have the most in discretionary funds we stand a chance to improve our company financials.
Location, Location, Location
All of the major education databases have a selection that rates the affluence of the community in which a school is located. They also have selections regarding the ethnic composition of the student population. Interestingly, in most cases this data comes from the United States census and not from the compilation of data from districts and schools themselves.
Whereas my experience with the selection of community affluence has been very positive, my experience with the selection of expenditure per pupil has not. My conclusion? Success is not about the demographics of the school. It is about the demographics of where the school is located.