When Public Schools Compete
We Choose SLPS is the slogan for the Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS) ad campaign, in which radio commercials, newspaper ads, and billboards highlight the strengths of the once-unaccredited school district. With the growing trend of open enrollment programs and charter schools around the country, it has become necessary for traditional public schools such as SLPS to compete for students.
The following is an excerpt from an article describing one Nashville principal’s experience canvassing for students:
It’s awkward. Someone peers out at her through the window. White looks away, pretending not to notice. After an uncomfortable few seconds, the door finally cracks open. White seizes her chance:
“My name is LaTonya White. I’m the principal at Rosebank Elementary School. How are you doing?” she asks, glancing at the clipboard in her hands. On it: a list of families in the area with soon-to-be kindergartners. “Yes, you should have a child ready to come to school soon.”
Canvassing for potential students—and honing this kind of front-porch pitch—are standard for charter schools. But for traditional public school leaders like White, it’s unfamiliar territory.
Competing for students may be unfamiliar territory for public schools, but for students it makes all the difference. When students have educational options other than the public school that corresponds to their zip code, public schools are held accountable for their performance.
This year, SLPS made improvements on their annual state report, an 18.6 percentage point gain, increasing attendance, graduation rate, and college and career readiness. As charter schools expand throughout the state and other choice options become available, I hope to see more public schools exhibiting the same behaviors as SLPS, turning schools into places students choose to be, instead of places they are obligated to attend.