Why do parents choose Rising?

New study finds high levels of parent satisfaction with Rising schools and strong belief in their quality.

The end of the school year is approaching, so our attention is turning to next year and how we recruit our next cohort of Rising students.

As parents consider the school options available to them for next year, what will go through their mind? What motivates some parents to choose Rising schools, while others consider our schools but ultimately go elsewhere?

Those were the questions we asked the Lean Data team at Acumen Fund to investigate for us. Acumen, a leading global impact investor, has spent the last four years developing an innovative, low cost, fast cycle approach to gathering customer insights in social impact organisations. Initially designed to help Acumen and its investees gather actionable data about the reach, impact and value of their activities, this “Lean Data” approach has subsequently been taken up by a growing number of other organisations.

As a methodology, Lean Data isn’t revolutionary, but it’s not meant to be. To me, its value lies in three things:

  • Providing standard question sets and modules that greatly simplify the process of questionnaire design
  • Challenging organisations to think about the merits of timely, good enough evidence over more rigorous but slower evidence
  • (Increasingly, as more social impact organisations start using these techniques and question sets), helping organisations to benchmark themselves against their peers.

Back to this study. To help us understand how Rising is perceived by parents and what we might need to do to reinforce or challenge those perceptions, the Lean Data team conducted phone interviews with a sample of current Rising parents (‘Choosers’) and a sample of parents who were interested enough in Rising to want more information from one of our outreach team, but ultimately didn’t enroll their child (‘Non-choosers’).

As with many Lean Data engagements, the sample sizes are small because the focus was on speed - from inception to full results was less than 4 weeks - so from a strictly statistical point of view the results are suggestive not definitive. Then again, the goal here wasn’t to get an objective measure of our quality. We have our independent evaluations for that. What we wanted to know was how the progress we’re seeing in those evaluations is informing parent perceptions of our schools, if at all.

So what did they find? Here are a few of the highlights:

1. Parent satisfaction with our schools is very high. Our Net Promoter Score (NPS), a common measure of customer satisfaction derived by asking parents how likely they are to recommend us to friends or family, yielded a score of 81 out of 100. The average for the 100+ social impact organisations around the world which the Lean Data team have worked with so far is 40, and anything above 50 is considered very good. (By way of contrast, less than 10% of parents who had considered Rising but ultimately gone with a different school said they were very likely to recommend that school to others.)

2. Parents were overwhelmingly positive about the impact Rising has had on their lives and the lives of their children. 89% said their own quality of life had “very much improved” because of Rising. 90% said the quality of education their children was receiving had “very much improved” because of Rising.

3. When asked to describe how this impact had presented, parents spoke not just about seeing improvements in their children’s academic performance (particularly in English) but in their attitudes to school overall. 20% mentioned seeing improvements in children’s desire to learn. “they love to read at home, not like before”, said one parent. Others mentioned improvements in children’s confidence and academic self-esteem: “It makes me a proud parent that my daughter can now stand boldly in front of people”, as one put it. That’s encouraging and tallies with some of what we’ve heard from students in Oxford University’s impact evaluation of our work.

4. Rising’s brand is strongly associated with quality. The top two factors cited by parents who had chosen Rising were education quality (mentioned by 43%) and teacher quality (mentioned by 29%). Even among parents who ultimately chose not to send their child to us, 87% said Rising was better quality than the alternatives in their area.

There were a lot of other insights that we’ll be exploring further and factoring into our outreach for next year. For example, it seems like word-of-mouth referrals were a particularly important channel for hearing about Rising and something that we need to make better use of. We also learned that for many "non-choosers" the reason for not choosing Rising was being reluctant to switch from a school their child was already attending. This suggests we need to do a better job of building long-term relationships ahead of key decision points. And while parents are impressed with what’s happening academically in our schools they want us to go further on the extra-curricular side. All useful insights.

But beyond the specifics, the study was a reminder of how important it is that we keep seeking this kind of feedback from parents, not least because it’s so energising to hear them say in their own words what it is that they value about Rising. Here were three of my favourite quotes:

  • “Rising Academies is here for we the low income earners.”
  • “Seeing him bossing his cousins at home in maths makes me proud."
  • “The one main reason why I will recommend Rising Academy is their dedication to see that our kids get the best education as possible.”

With that dedication in mind, we look forward to making the next school year our best yet.