Top Tips for Increasing Your Montessori School’s Retention Rate

The path to profitability starts with improving your school’s retention rate. But how? That’s the million dollar question.

The good news is that there’s an answer to that question. This post will break down seven retention strategies that you can implement right away to boost your Montessori school’s retention rate dramatically.

As you go through this, here’s a goal to keep in mind: Your retention rate should be at least 80%. The higher your retention rate, the healthier your school and the less you’ll spend (in time and effort) trying to attract new families. It’s always cheaper to keep your current families.

So, if you’re struggling to retain families year after year, let’s not waste another second. Here’s how to improve your school’s retention rate:

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Improve School to Parent Communication

Apathy is your enemy. It’s one of the main reasons why a family decides to leave a school. Parents who aren’t excited or passionate about your school won’t see the value in continuing with you, and it’s your job to help them see the value of your work—not just during special events like parent night, but all of the time.

How do you do that?

Start with a commitment to communicate clearly and frequently with your parents. Share your enthusiasm and keep parents apprised of everything that’s happening in your class and school. From monthly newsletters to private communication groups for parents where you engage in discussions and share photos, documents, calendars, and more, you need to make communication a priority.

By bringing parents in and making them feel like part of the conversation, they’re less likely to feel apathetic or disconnected from your school. You’ll also nurture a sense of community and forge a bond that’s hard to sever.

parent communication made easy

Share the Highlights

Now’s not the time to be humble. You’ve got to show your parents what they’re paying for. The best place to do this is in your newsletter.

What should you share in your newsletter?

Showcase the students – Include photos of your students at work. Explain what they’ve learned.
Highlight a teacher – Choose a teacher (or a group of teachers) to introduce for each newsletter. Your parents can get to know more about your teachers through these highlights.
Celebrate your community – Show photos of events that parents attend to encourage more parent participation.

Discuss Business

Use your newsletter to discuss your plans (and needs) for the school. Keep parents informed about your constant forward progress, and recruit them as necessary to help make your school a success.

In your newsletter:

Discuss your plans for the upcoming school year
Introduce new programs
Discuss improvements to your building
Announce any faculty updates
Share classroom wish lists
Send out classroom reminders
Inform families of your school’s safety initiatives

Newsletters that delve into the business side of your school may make you feel vulnerable, but it does a lot of good for building a community of involved and engaged parents.

Consider Continuous Enrollment

Have you considered implementing continuous enrollment in your Montessori school?

The idea behind continuous enrollment is to keep your families opted in unless they (or your school) decides to opt out.

It’s a simple idea, but a brilliant one. Think about it: Do you really need to ask for re-enrollment at the end of every year? The question, “Are you returning to our school next year?” puts parents in the uncomfortable and defensive position of rethinking their commitment to your school—and you don’t want that.

However, if you embrace a continuous enrollment policy, you’ll never have to ask that question again.

Continuous enrollment is basically “once enrolled, always enrolled.” Instead of an opt-in, it’s an opt-out. So, once your families sign on for continuous enrollment, it’s assumed that they’ll remain with your school unless they say otherwise.

Another benefit of continuous enrollment? Guaranteed classroom placement. Knowing that their family’s spot is secured is a weight off of their shoulders, and a definite selling point for continuous enrollment.

You can implement continuous enrollment for the upcoming school year. At the end of this year, have all of your current families sign up for continuous enrollment (after explaining the benefits of it). Then, going forward, ask your new families to opt-in to continuous enrollment. Easy. And thumbs up for never having to corner your families and ask about their enrollment intentions again.


Recruit Your Staff

Everyone on your staff should participate in retention.

It’s a given that you—as the school administrator—are interested in retention, but everyone is affected when families decide not to return. So, make it everyone’s job to improve your school’s retention rate.

Teachers are on the front line, and should actively participate in the process. For example, your teachers should talk with parents frequently and gauge their levels of satisfaction with your school. It’s easy to do this when you have open communication with parents as we discussed above.

Also, teachers should relay these sentiments to your school leadership so that you can reach out to families who may be on the brink of leaving.

I recommend asking your teachers to evaluate families on how likely they are to return (using a scale of 1 to 10, for example). Also pay attention to families at key transition points who are moving from one age group to another (i.e from children’s house to lower elementary, lower elementary to upper elementary).

For families that are in the danger zone, have a plan to reach out to these families personally.

I recommend assigning one person to do this, giving them the role of retention manager. Your retention manager can serve as the point person for questions, problems, concerns, advice, and information.

Focus on Delivering Exceptional Customer Service

Is it weird to think of your families as customers? But that’s exactly who they are. They’re buying your product, and they should feel that it meets their needs.

Don’t just be wonderful during enrollment. Be the same hands on, enthusiastic team throughout the school year, and every time “your customers” interact with you—whether they’re picking up their student, dropping off the monthly tuition, or showing up at special events. Go out of your way to show them that you appreciate their “business”.

Ideas for family appreciation include handwritten notes and offering small gifts for your family (or the student). So much of customer service is about exceeding expectations, and just by giving small tokens of appreciation, you can make a huge impact on your families.

Have a Job for Every Parent

Earlier, I talked about creating a community with your families. This also extends to assigning a responsibility to every willing family. As a small school—Montessori in particular—you’re uniquely built to accommodate parent involvement.

While you shouldn’t force parents to be involved, you should definitely encourage participation and have opportunities available for any family that’s interested.

From parent associations to book fairs to fundraisers to after school events, there are plenty of events that parents can be involved in. Make a list of ways that parents can contribute to your school, and then share the list with your families. Ask them to get involved. The more options you make available, the better!

Getting parents involved in the fabric of your school will increase your retention numbers. Families who have ownership are less likely to leave.

Final Thoughts

Remember that parents want to be involved and they want to know what’s happening with their child. Unhappy parents feel disconnected and will leave. Keep parents in the loop by focusing on communication and delivering unbeatable customer service. And don’t forget about continuous enrollment.

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