Why Continuous Enrollment is Essential

Continuous Enrollment is a strategy already adopted by many schools. In the above video, Jono Landon, the founder and CEO of Hubbli, discusses what it means, why it is useful, and strategies to implement it at your school.

This video on continuous enrollment is part of the Montessori Administrator Accreditation program offered by the Center for Guided Montessori Studies.

If you prefer to read, the video transcript is below.

So in this lesson, we’re going to be talking about the concept of continuous enrollment. So the idea behind continuous enrollment is to keep the parents opted in year after year, rather than the assumption that they’re opting out. You have to approach them and ask them every year if they’re planning on re-enrolling if you start the relationship off, uh, with your contracts, um, and making it clear from the beginning that you, you offer, the way your school works is that you’re enrolled continuously until the parent opts out. That allows you to have a relationship, uh, with the transitions with those parents being able to focus on, on, on, on just the positive, like talking about them about next year, making these assumptions, because the assumption is actually built-in, in agreed to at the beginning, allowing you to just completely avoid this kind of negative conversations that force the parents to go through the whole consideration of whether they should stay here or look at other schools.

Um, of course, at any point in time, the parents can decide not to re-enroll. And at any point in time, you can still suggest that the parents need to find another school, but for the parents, and hopefully, the majority of your parents that you want to keep enrolled, uh, for your whole program, this is a way, um, that that makes that easier and more likely that parents won’t be thinking about leaving the school. So with continuous enrollment, the idea is once enrolled, always enrolled. You can highlight the benefit of this to the parents at the beginning of the relationship, when they’re going through the admissions process by also, uh, by letting them know about the benefit of having guaranteed placement for those parents, if there’s any pushback, or if they’re asking about, about why you do this, why, why you have continuous enrollment, um, there likely won’t be. Still, if you can basically tell them, this is a way to ensure that your child has a placement guaranteed, uh, for out are once you’re enrolled.

Once you get through our admissions process, your child has a place in our school, uh, for as long as you want. And this is something that you can, and you can actually go ahead and implement this year, even if you haven’t been doing it. So the way you want to do that is, you know, before the end of the year, uh, cause you’re going to be doing a re-enrollment process. Anyways, you want to obviously prepare to have this discussion and talk about the benefits and the incentives of having a child, having the, having enrollment change from a, you know, a yearly cycle to a continuous one.

So this lesson is all about recruiting your staff, um, regarding retention, as we know, retention is so important to schools. Uh, I’ve talked to hundreds of schools. I talked to schools every day, at least two or three of them. And I asked them, uh, one of the questions I usually start by asking is, you know, what’s your retention rate? Uh, it seems to be, you know, schools are, uh, on average, probably about 75 to 80% of, uh, you know, uh, have a retention rate, uh, specifically for non-graduating students. That’s, that’s the exact metric that is really important for schools to talk about, obviously, school children graduate and, uh, and they, they move out counting those as part of your retention, uh, is, you know, as far as improving the, your retention as a strategic initiative, uh, that doesn’t help you very much. Um, so, I want to talk about working with teachers to increase your retention.

Teachers are on the front lines. So, um, they have this opportunity to interface with parents, and teachers are generally wonderful at that. Still, the question is, how do we use that opportunity really strategically to work on retention, and what teachers can do to help the school increases is retention. Of course, the most important thing is that the children are thriving. So that’s, that’s assumed that that’s going on at your school. So what I’m talking about is specifically the interactions that teachers can have with the parents to gauge their, you know, their happiness and what we had. Hubbli called parent success because schools are obviously, you know, rightly so completely focused on the child’s success, but, um, there needs to be another strategy, uh, running in parallel, which is parents access. And we know Montessori schools are very focused on parent education, and there’s a good reason there.

So that’s something that, you know, we can talk about in another module, but very specifically trying to approach this topic of parent success. And in regards to retention is where teachers, if you have a strategy in place, um, where, you know, you are, you know, let’s regularly say, whether it’s, let’s say monthly, monthly is a pretty good, um, a pretty good pace, uh, to work on something like this. You sit down with your staff, you have a meeting and either it’s in a staff meeting where everyone’s together, or you work with your staff, one-on-one obviously that’s up to you, but you want to have, the teacher is answering the same questions, um, in regards each parent. And, and you want to know how, how likely, let’s say a simple, you know, Likert scale between one and 10, how likely are they, you know, are these parents, um, to enroll next year or obviously, uh, not move away if you’re running a continuous enrollment, how likely are they to not opt-out of, of our school?

So that’s something that, um, you, it’s very simple to do. Uh, just a simple one at a 10 question, but you can also work with the parents, and I’m sorry, work with the teachers and tell them to think about that. If the teachers understand that they’re part of this strategy, and this is a regular thing, then you know, you don’t have to give them any specific script or what to ask, but at least there’ll be, there’ll be thinking about this. There’ll be thinking there’ll be making the connection between, um, how they interact with the, not just as a teacher with the children, but also with the parents. And there’ll be looking for cues. And, uh, and of course, you can get more advanced with this and bring in consultants to talk about, uh, you know, retention and parent success. Um, but even just getting this, this very, uh, you know, initial strategy play, uh, in place will give you very, very actionable information that, that you can then move forward with

And now what I do suggest is that you select one staff member to kind of head this up, whether it’s a teacher or someone in the office or yourself, but this should be one person. And I suggest that it is not the director because, or the head of school, um, any school leaders, they have enough, you have enough on your plate. And, of course, this retention is on your plate. This is your responsibility. But when you want to take a tactic and put it into action for that retention strategy, what you want to do is delegate it to somebody. So that, it’s just not another thing that you’re adding onto your plate. So pick a teacher and make them sort of the, you know, the head of parent success. Um, so really the other benefit of selecting one person is, is that they’ll get better and better at it, right?

If somebody is a teacher and you know, obviously teaching is their main focus, but they have, they’ve got this one new, additional, small job. They’ll. They’ll be able to get better and better at it. It’ll become easier and easier for them to do. And you’ll gather the information that you can then have those conversations with the parents that seem to be high risk, um, at the right time. And of course, you want to be, um, really using this information ideally before, before it becomes a problem. Uh, but certainly at those transition times from, you know, whether someone’s going from lower elementary to upper elementary, whatever it is, um, you want to make sure that you, you come prepared for that information. You can think about it. Uh, you can sort of, you can let it steep. You know, you can take the information, you know, you know, about the parents.

And if you employ this on an elementary level, you’re going to see an increase in your retention rate, simply by being aware, it’s kind of like, uh, you know, one of the best ways to lose weight is to write down everything you eat, just because you become, uh, you become aware of, of how much you’re eating. Um, without even purposely trying to cut down that alone, right. It will help you lose weight. Well, kind of like this being aware of where your parents are at taking inventory of your parents and having simply a one at a 10 scale of all your parents to see, let’s say you’ve got a hundred parents. You’ve got them all in a list, and you can see which ones are more likely or less likely to, uh, to remain in the school. So that gives you the ability to not only, um, know that information, but also to focus on the ones that seem less likely, uh, and put your energy there rather than, you know, adding extra energy to everybody.

Again, this is about being strategic because time there’s nothing but time constraints when you’re running a Montessori school. Um, I know I sound like I ran one myself. I haven’t, but I help work with Montessori schools day in and day out. And one thing I, I, I know is that, you know, people running schools have too much to do as it is. So, taking your time and using it strategically focuses, taking your focus and your, and your workload and putting it to where it needs. It needs to be the most is one of the best ways to optimize your administration. So again, when you have that information, you can, you can act strategically. You can focus where it needs to be, rather than, you know, just spreading it across to everybody. And you’ll see an improvement in your retention rate.