Why LearnZillion Came to Us: LearnZillion is modernizing instruction by making technology more accessible in the classroom. They combine the expertise of teachers with the power of technology to provide the curriculum and support needed to engage every student. Teacher led and teacher guided, LearnZillion’s content is constantly updated so that teachers can update their instruction in real time. LearnZillion had been successfully doing great work when they came to Larson Communications, but they wanted to expand their work into new schools by showing the value that early adopters were already experiencing.
Our LearnZillion: We set out to amplify the message that it’s working and that other school systems are adopting this model successfully. We set the goal of bringing focus to how and when they tell their story, and to whom. With proactive and strategic storytelling, we were able to highlight their impact and get other school districts interested. We helped LearnZillion focus their message on igniting teacher buy-in, so that the growth would happen more organically. Our goal was to getting new schools to follow the lead and adopt the platform.
Why NACSA Came to Us: The National Association of Charter School Authorizers represents the organizations across the country that authorize public charter schools, also known as authorizers — the regulatory bodies educators and community groups engage with in order to open a charter school. NACSA shares best practices and sets the standards for what high-quality authorizing and accountability entails. They asked us to put together a plan to help them communicate more effectively. They were in search of a plan of action with better messaging that would resonate and stick with their key audiences.
Our Strategy for NACSA: We put together a three-year strategic road map to help NACSA communicate more effectively. Our plan outlined how they could get more specific in their messaging, how to better highlight the best authorizers in the nation, and how adhering to NACSA standards for quality and accountability would help authorizers become more effective. We outlined three specific goals: Shine the light on which authorizers around the country are doing well and which ones aren’t; bring more awareness to high-quality schools and accountability for the best (and worst) authorizers; and shed light on the painful fact that if there are subpar charter schools – it is up to the authorizers to get better at doing their job.
Why Citizens of the World Came to Us: Citizens of the World Charter Schools challenge students to realize their full potential and thrive in a diverse society by being deliberate about embedding diversity within their schools while providing a rigorous and joyful learning environment. The school network came to us seeking creative ways to highlight their unique model as reporters across the nation expressed interest. One of their main concerns was shoring up support in neighborhoods where they had existing schools, but where their work was not clearly understood. This included in New York City and Los Angeles; and where they were opening new schools, specifically looking to establish a groundswell of support for their new campus in Kansas City.
Our Strategy for Citizens of the World: We first helped Citizens of the World hone in on their vision and bring consistency to the way they talked about their model and the success of their schools. By telling their story over time and raising community awareness, enrollment in their schools increased and teacher recruiting efforts improved. This increased visibility helped prepare the organization to expand into Kansas City at the local community’s request. We helped spearhead this effort by capturing the story of a community eager to create a new school system that reflects the full diversity of Midtown, a historically segregated part of Kansas City. Then we elevated Citizens’ voice and the voices of community members who pioneered the effort to establish a high-quality school that would encourage families to stay in Midtown, rather than leave for better schools outside the community. From there, we built momentum with the local news media to highlight Citizens’ vision for Kansas City. To prepare for this exposure, we worked with Citizens by media training their top leaders, developing speeches, talking points and presentations for key stakeholders to take a vision and a concept and help turn it into a thriving public school.
Why Relay Came to Us: Relay Graduate School of Education is revolutionizing how aspiring teachers are prepared to be more effective by allowing them to refine their practice with faculty and peers until they’re ready to perform with confidence in the classroom. With a national need for a strong, diverse teacher workforce, Relay’s approach is in demand. As it grew, Relay wanted to take control of its brand, introduce its work to new regions but also more broadly to those within education. Relay knew that its ability to have greater impact in more regions would be directly tied to how strongly its work is understood and how well its external brand is perceived. In short, Relay knew it needed to define itself on its own terms.
Our Strategy for Relay: We focused on developing a strategic communications plan designed to help Relay proactively share its work more broadly. The goal was to ensure that Relay is accurately understood and recognized for its work. They needed to develop an ongoing communications cadence that effectively communicated who they are and what they do. We helped support relationships with partners in new regions by introducing Relay in new communities but were also a strategic thought partner in all other aspects of launching a new campus. Together, we have helped grow the positive understanding of Relay’s work.
Why the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools Came to Us: After years of stepping in when the national charter movement needed it most, the National Alliance approached us again in 2016 at a time when the national charter school movement was being hit with several negative themes, including a lack of momentum, inequitable funding and a low-performing virtual charter school sector. We quarterbacked a steady communications plan that proactively addressed these issues, while also helping the organization reframe myths and help turn the negative narrative into a positive one.
Our Strategy for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools: We helped the Alliance establish a strategic cadence of positive visibility that built positive momentum. This happened by creatively packaging and disseminating a proactive communications plan which showcased the performance of the charter school movement, promoted the Alliance’s efforts to drive quality within the movement and then helped the Alliance patiently stick with executing this game plan.
To accomplish these goals, we drove a communications calendar designed to shine the light on the positive momentum of the charter school movement, including releasing a series of reports focused on quality, while also showcasing the faces served by the movement. First, we spearheaded the national “Health of the Movement” campaign, designed to highlight states with positive policies and momentum in the charter movement and drive attention to states in need of improvement. Second, we released a public opinion survey which found that 78 percent of parents across the nation support having a charter school open in their neighborhood, with 73 percent in support of more charter schools opening nationwide. Third, we released a hard-hitting report calling to hold virtual charter schools accountable, to drive attention to the issue of underperforming virtual charter schools across the country, as well as in the states where most of these schools are located.
Why the University of Arkansas Came to Us: The University of Arkansas’ Department of Education Reform is one of the preeminent research teams on education reform and school funding. Since 2013, they have published a series of reports highlighting disparities in funding between public charter and traditional schools, which, in some cities, is as much as $15,000 per student. They have also looked at the Return On Investment for charter schools, comparing funding levels to student outcomes. We raised awareness for each of these reports.
Our Strategy for University of Arkansas: We set out to raise attention through the news media and broader public so that state and national policymakers would be aware of the inequities that exist, as well as the productivity of charter schools and take action accordingly, by making their key findings digestible to a broad audience.
Throughout the years, these reports have analyzed local, state, federal and private funding sources for public schools in as many as 30 states and 48 major cities. We worked in coordination with the research team to engage and support stakeholders as part of a national and multi-regional proactive media campaign to drive positive attention to the major findings of the report. Each year, we delivered as many as 100 media placements for the university, including The Economist, The Huffington Post, Education Week and National Public Radio.
Why Laura & John Arnold Came to Us: The Laura and John Arnold Foundation approached us to help the foundation build support for its vision of producing substantial, widespread and lasting reforms within K-12 public education and public accountability. This included publicly unveiling its major investments in supporting the revamped school system in post-Katrina New Orleans. We conducted media briefings with reporters from top-tier publications, which led to prominent placements in The Wall Street Journal, The Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Education Week and The Associated Press about the foundation’s investments geared towards positive change in the Crescent City. The investments have led to incredible success and have helped open up positive educational opportunities for thousands of children who were not previously receiving a good education.
After their successful grant-making in New Orleans, and at the time of the federal government shutdown in October 2013, Laura and John Arnold were concerned that thousands of children that would be negatively impacted. The impending shutdown would have cut off all federal funding for the Head Start program, a 50-year-old program that provides early education and meals for 7,000 low-income kids. The Arnolds, disappointed at the federal government’sinability to resolve their differences, believed that it was especially unfair that young children from underserved communities and families would suffer at the hands of Congress’s collective failures. In an effort to address this injustice, they donated $10 million to keep the doors open at every Head Start program across the country. They wanted to let the 7,000 participating families know the programs would continue, and let policymakers know that their bureaucratic ineptitude would have a negative impact on the country’s most vulnerable children.
Our Strategy for Laura & John Arnold: We managed this potential crisis by proactively making sure that every family across the nation knew that Head Start programs would not go away, despite the government shutdown. To maximize potential media impact of the Arnolds’ announcement, we proactively reached out to our trusted reporters at top-tier publications and managed media inquiries from national and regional reporters throughout the government shutdown.
Why Aspire Public Schools Came to Us: Aspire Public Schools operates 40 high-performing college-preparatory public charter schools serving 16,000 students in underserved communities across California and Memphis, Tennessee. Aspire came to us in 2010 because they wanted their work to be recognized as one of the best charter school systems in the country with the goals of helping their schools expand in the regions they serve.
Our Aspire Public Schools Strategy: Our over-arching strategy was to tell their story over time, and do it consistently so that Aspire could build their brand and define themselves on their own terms. We developed and executed a series of proactive media campaigns to drive Aspire’s momentum locally, regionally and nationally with a steady cadence of news stories highlighting Aspire’s impactful and meaningful work in its open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools across California and in Memphis.