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Student in classroom at KIPP Schools

TBC Alumni Journal: Student Recruitment During COVID-19

Education leaders are facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We asked Jonathan Perry, a 2020 graduate of the Broad Residency in Urban Education and associate director of operations and enrollment at KIPP Public Schools: Northern California, about how his organization is responding.

What is one of the biggest challenges your organization is facing during COVID-19?

Enrolling a large network of urban public charter schools in California has never been more challenging. School systems face several constraints: building space is limited and facilities can change from year to year, families have more options so schools have greater competition for students, and the forces of gentrification are pushing families farther away from our communities—and this was all before the pandemic.

Now, as we enter a recession and the shelter-in-place continues, school systems face mounting pressure to be more dependent on public funding, which means leaning on student enrollment as one of the few sources of revenue. All the while, traditional student recruitment practices like canvassing, event organizing, open houses, and meet-and-greets are impossible. This pandemic has fundamentally changed the way that our schools recruit and enroll new students and we are racing up a new learning curve to raise awareness and entice new families to choose KIPP, all while never being able to meet many of them in person.

How are you thinking about how to respond to this issue?

School decision making in this time has changed and families are now considering new information. Families are asking new questions as they decide which school to enroll their child in, including: how well is a school system managing this crisis? How is it supporting families and students to keep kids learning in an equitable manner? And how do they plan to hold classes in the fall? Schools have had to go well beyond the traditional “apply now” ad and get more savvy with online marketing, communicating the school's ability to deliver its services virtually (academics, mental health counseling, college counseling, and more), and to keep families engaged and supported. The school systems that are able to adapt quickly and are telling this story well will see a return in new applications and more families committing to be a part of their community in the fall.

Under the aegis of The Broad Center at Yale SOM, the Broad Residency in Urban Education will be succeeded by a Master’s in Public Education Management program, aimed at early- to mid-career school system leaders with extraordinary leadership potential who wish to increase their impact in key K-12 systems.