School News

Why Do Parents Choose Fayerweather?

Kim Ridley, Head of School
When I started my headship at Fayerweather an important part of my learning tour was to better understand what attracted parents to FSS. During my first year (2018) I hosted focus groups to listen to parent reflections. The groups consisted of parents with children who represented different grade levels. This was the recipe for a rich discussion and exchange of ideas and information. I observed parents asking each other questions about the experience of students in different grades. As you would expect, these conversations and feedback from parents stimulated many ideas and gave me much to consider.
At the time I was leading these early focus groups, I became aware of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), “Jobs to be Done” research. I made sure to use the phrasing of the JTBD questions to better understand why parents choose FSS. I opened these focus group conversations with, “what job did you hire Fayerweather to do?” Often parents responded with, “that’s an interesting way to phrase the question,” and yet, this question stimulated immediate and thoughtful responses.

The purpose of the JTBD study is to help independent schools to better understand why parents want an independent school education; why they invest their resources; what they expect and want for their children when they decide to invest in this kind of educational setting. This groundbreaking methodology was developed by Tony Ulwick with the purpose of providing a framework for organizing what customers need. NAIS used this framework to help schools to better understand what jobs parents are hiring us to do when they choose Fayerweather. The results from the research provide clarity, insight, and a lens for our team to use as we engage with current and prospective families. This helps us to identify families that are aligned with the vision and mission of FSS.

In the Winter 2019 issue of Independent School Magazine, Amanda Torres outlines four jobs parents hire independent school to do:

Job 1: When a school is failing my child, either academically or by not providing a safe learning environment, help me find a school that will address those obstacles so that my child can thrive in school.

Job 2: Help me find a school that will ensure that my intelligent and emotionally mature child can fulfill their potential and to be prepared for college.

Job 3: When a school is focused almost solely on test scores and academic curriculum, help me find a school that will focus on my child’s social and emotional well-being so that I can make sure that my child is well-rounded and a productive member of society.

Job 4: When my child has talents that must be cultivated and I have a select set of acceptable colleges in mind, help me find a school with an excellent academic program and reputation so my child can get into the best colleges.

“One of the key aspects of the JTBD methodology is the belief that parents do not buy school products or brands, but rather they “hire” and “fire” schools to perform a “job” for them (Amanda Torres, 2019).” It is this idea that parents are willing to compromise if they are able to access what is most important to their child’s education.

The JTBD study has been particularly helpful in helping me, as well as our admissions team to frame conversations with current and prospective parents that provides a window into what parents need, want, and expect. What I have found in well over one hundred conversations over the past three years, is that the jobs parents hire us to do mainly aligns with Job number 3. 

I hear and have heard words and expressions about wanting my child to have a love and joy of learning; to be informed and engaged citizens, role models; to be aware of cultural differences and how they impact one’s experience and view of the world; wanting learning to be hands on, project-oriented and meaningful; a desire for social-emotional support and self-awareness; to see the world from multiple perspectives and to have a sense of agency and self-advocacy; to develop empathy; to be good human beings.

According to the NAIS study, parents who are interested in Job 3 are concerned more about the “whole child,” including wanting their child(ren) to embrace the meaning of citizenship and what it means to live in a world where people are different, as well as wanting their children to apply learning to real world endeavors through hands-on, experiential and project-based approaches. Job 3 parents care less about the traditional skill and drill educational methodology, or a sole focus on academic learning. Parents who embrace Jobs 3 see academics as essential, and they also see social, emotional, and physical development as equally important. Of course, there exists overlap of the different “Jobs” at FSS.

Education, as an American institution, is struggling to evolve from its unequal, inequitable, and industrial roots, especially for the masses. Fayerweather’s mission, vision and philosophy was in play well before it’s time. The school’s philosophy and progressive pedagogy was and continues to be about supporting and cultivating “ways of being” in the world. Ways of being are beliefs, values, and a sense of self regard. It goes without saying that we are deeply committed to teaching and building strong foundational skills and knowledge. Fayerweather’s progressive, anti-bias, mission prioritizes the development of skill sets and mindsets that facilitate students’ grasp of purpose in their learning. We want students to gain conviction and compassion about how they want to show up in their communities. Yet, anecdotally, it appears hard for parents to let go of the traditional drill and kill mentality, and to trust that cultivating, teaching and supporting “ways of being” in early education sets the brain ablaze with potential, excitement and endless possibilities. Ted Dintersmith who wrote the book, What Schools Could Be, says it best-- “remarkable things happen when kids learn organically and passionately, instead of painting by the numbers.”

In partnership,
Fayerweather Street School | 765 Concord Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138 | 617-876-4746
Fayerweather is a private PreK, kindergarten, elementary and middle school. We engage each child’s intellect.