Strong Audience Understanding Drives Enrollment + Retention for Uncommon Schools


Uncommon Schools is a charter school network that operates 57 charter schools across five regions in Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. 

Uncommon Schools lacked a strong understanding of its audience and the factors impacting student enrollment and attrition. They sought to conduct brand research in order to better understand their audience and drive better enrollment—and retention—for their programs.

The Outcome

We conducted deep quantitative and qualitative research for Uncommon Schools, collecting over 4,000 survey responses, and completing over 50 interviews to examine factors that drive satisfaction and uncover perceptions of the Uncommon brand. This work resulted in a campaign that aimed to engage more prospective parents and students.


Parent Profiles (Personas) Developed


Total Survey Responses


Competitors Analyzed
The Challenge

Uncommon Schools lacked a strong understanding of its audience and the factors impacting student enrollment and attrition. They wanted to improve their understanding of the audience to provide marketing materials that would resonate well, and better understand their enrollment process to help increase enrollment and combat attrition. 


They needed to conduct a brand research audit to examine what families look for in schools, factors that drive satisfaction, perceptions of the Uncommon Schools brand, and what messages would resonate the most.  

The Strategy

Our work with Uncommon Schools included rigorous research with their audiences across current, attrited, and prospective families, and teachers across grade levels. The goal was to uncover feedback about school reputation, brand associations, enrollment drivers and barriers, messaging appeal, and competitive perceptions.


This research included both quantitative and qualitative components, including survey data from over 4,000 respondents, and over 50 interviews


  • 22 individual parent interviews
  • 6 focus groups with school staff + educators 
  • 9 internal leadership interviews
  • 8 surveys fielded across 5 audience groups 
  • 4,035 total survey responses
  • 8 Parent Profiles (personas) developed
  • 5 competitors analyzed


From the research, we identified 8 Parent Profiles outlining core delineations, including the size of that profile, what each valued most in a school, their perception of Uncommon Schools, how satisfied they were with Uncommon Schools, and their preferred messaging. Using the data, we also delineated and organized them into three categories: highest value, highest opportunity, or vulnerable to attrition. 


All of these insights ultimately helped us to craft a brand positioning inspired by what mattered most to parents and where Uncommon Schools had the opportunity to be the most differentiated. We also established parameters for their messaging and visual expression to always be student-focused and results-driven—two important differentiators for their brand.


Key Insights from Analyzing the Data

What we uncovered in our extensive research, including analyzing stated versus derived importance, was that what parents said was important was not always what correlated with their satisfaction. 

In digging into the analysis, we uncovered that while factors related to academics, safety and rigor were most often cited as reasons for choosing a school, it was often the interpersonal and emotional aspects that drove their satisfaction. 

We also learned that parents overwhelmingly preferred messaging that was student (versus school) focused—demonstrating that benefits to their children resonated more than statements extolling the school’s strengths.

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