Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Jack be Nimble

Regardless of your views of free trade versus trade protectionism, with our changing administrations the change in trade policies will likely be very disruptive to workers.  

Tim Worstall in Forbes (December 26, 2016) writes about the considerable disruption any sort of trade policy change causes – whether protectionist or free trade.

Worstall cites Nobel Prize Laureate Paul Krugman’s latest New York Times op-ed:

“What the coming trade war will do, however, is cause a lot of disruption. Today’s world economy is built around “value chains” that spread across borders: your car or your smartphone contain components manufactured in many countries, then assembled or modified in many more. A trade war would force a drastic shortening of those chains, and quite a few U.S. manufacturing operations would end up being big losers, just as happened when global trade surged in the past.”

(An important note:  Krugman won his Nobel prize in Economics for his work on world trade.)

Worstall also cites a scholarly study done on the impact of free trade:

“China’s emergence as a great economic power has induced an epochal shift in patterns of world trade. Simultaneously, it has challenged much of the received empirical wisdom about how labor markets adjust to trade shocks. Alongside the heralded consumer benefits of expanded trade are substantial adjustment costs and distributional consequences. These impacts are most visible in the local labor markets in which the industries exposed to foreign competition are concentrated. Adjustment in local labor markets is remarkably slow, with wages and labor-force participation rates remaining depressed and unemployment rates remaining elevated for at least a full decade after the China trade shock commences. Exposed workers experience greater job churning and reduced lifetime income. At the national level, employment has fallen in U.S. industries more exposed to import competition, as expected, but offsetting employment gains in other industries have yet to materialize.”  (Italics added for emphasis.)

Worstall’s (and Krugman’s) conclusion is that free trade is a good thing, but really that’s beside my point.

If you are educating young people, the crucial idea here is that every time the political/economic winds shift, there will be employment disruption.  How do we prepare our kids for this eventuality?  The winners will be those who can adapt quickly.  And the consequences of losing are likely to be much more difficult.

I can think of two occasions where either the Democratic (1994) or Republican (2008) party were declared dead on arrival, and I certainly don’t buy the idea that the Democratic party is dead today.  It seems reasonable that the political winds will shift once again. 

I distinctly remember reading an article way back in 1992 to the effect that, economically, it really did not matter who won that election:  Either President (George H.W.) Bush or President Clinton would be forced into similar economic policies (e.g. smaller government/deficits, free trade) or the United States would suffer significant punishment in the world markets.   

With the Trump administration, that is clearly no longer the case. Whether you agree or disagree with these changes, clearly significant changes are coming economically.   And these will be disruptive, period.

Thus, the long-run question for Christian education – Can we train up children who can readily adapt and change when the political and economic winds shift?

Already anticipating this rapidly-changing economic world in the late 1990s, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich proposed a three-part recipe for career success:

(1) Work full-time with an employer who will develop skills in you that are readily transferable to other labor domains,
(2) Simultaneously, develop a part-time entrepreneurial enterprise to “fall back on” if needed, and
(3) Pursue your ultimate “dream job” scenario with remaining available time.

I actually followed his advice, which is why, back in 2000, I was able to launch GraceWorks.  And I continue to pursue (3) in my not-so-spare time.

The point being, what Reich suggests is a workable strategy, and it is hard.  

BUT ... e
ntrepreneurship is actually declining with young people in the United States, according to an important just-released economic report by the Gallup organization.  

What are we doing, as Christian schools, to help our Jacks (and Jills) be nimble and quick in our rapidly changing economic world?  Because rest assured, it is going to keep changing. 

At a minimum, we have to get our entrepreneurial parents and supporters in the classrooms.  We must!

(C) 2016 Daniel Krause  All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 1, 2016

Everything I needed to know about Calculus I learned at Six Flags

From a MUST READ book:  Most Likely to Succeed, by Wagner and Dintersmith, 2015.  If you really want to help kids, read this important book!  More coming.

Incidentally, who knew more about calculus - the Prophet Daniel or Leonardo da Vinci?

Most likely, the surprising answer is the Prophet Daniel.  Note this recent article in Science.  For all his brilliance, Leonardo actually had a third-grade understanding of math, according to Peter Bernstein in Against the Gods:  The Remarkable Story of Risk, 1998.  Which makes all of Leonardo's accomplishments even more remarkable.

But also ... this understanding puts the Biblical book of Daniel in a slightly different light as well.  The prophet that Jesus quoted the most was a thinker, a very logical person.  Hmmmm ....

Copyright (c) 2016 by Dan Krause, GraceWorks Ministries, all rights reserved.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Lessons from Daniel's Childhood in Raising Up Champions

The northern Kingdom of Israel had been captured and exiled by the Assyrians (capital: Nineveh) in 722 BC (“the 10 lost tribes.”)  The southern kingdom was saved for over a hundred years by the repentance of good King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19).

Good King Josiah, Hezekiah’s great grandson, comes to power in Judah in 641 BC, at the age of 8 years old.   Jeremiah starts prophesying in 626 BC, and around 622 BC, under Josiah, Judah has its greatest spiritual revival ever, once the Torah is rediscovered in the temple.  

After several decades of not celebrating the Passover, King Josiah reinstates Passover in epic proportions:
Then Josiah provided 30,000 lambs and young goats for the people’s Passover offerings, along with 3,000 cattle, all from the king’s own flocks and herds.  The king’s officials also made willing contributions to the people, priests, and Levites. Hilkiah, Zechariah, and Jehiel, the administrators of God’s Temple, gave the priests 2,600 lambs and young goats and 300 cattle as Passover offerings.  The Levite leaders—Conaniah and his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, as well as Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad—gave 5,000 lambs and young goats and 500 cattle to the Levites for their Passover offerings …. The entire ceremony for the LORD’s Passover was completed that day. All the burnt offerings were sacrificed on the altar of the LORD, as King Josiah had commanded.  All the Israelites present in Jerusalem celebrated Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days (Chronicles 35:7-17)
Daniel was born, in Jerusalem, into wealth and nobility, shortly after this Passover. He was born in the greatest spiritual revival ever seen in Judah. He had a great childhood education – and great spiritual formation.  He was at the heart of revival – at Ground Zero, in Jerusalem.   Undoubtedly as a child he saw King Josiah, Jeremiah, and the prophet Zephaniah first hand.  Probably his family dined with all of them.   What is notable about these prophets is their significant world concern.[1]  Daniel’s childhood was filled with stories and prophecies speaking of various world powers and rulers.  The prophet Habakkuk arrived later in the scene, around 612 BC.

Probably the penultimate event of Daniel’s childhood was the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC.  Assyria had been one of Judah’s greatest enemies for over a century.  In today’s terms, Daniel was in his later elementary years, perhaps in our “5th grade,” when he sees the results of nation-wide repentance and revival: good triumphing over evil – all prophesied in advanced by prophets that he personally had heard.

It would not be much of a stretch to say, in today’s terms, that Daniel had a thoroughly spiritual / religious (Christian) upbringing in his elementary years.  But somewhere in late middle or high school, the bottom fell out.

After failing to follow the advice of Jeremiah, King Josiah is killed by the Egyptians in 605 BC.  Daniel is now 11-15 years old.  The two kings who follow are both evil.  Jeremiah is abused by the false prophets, and weeps tears without end. Habakkuk and Zephaniah implore a nation to repentance, all to no avail. 

Under evil kings once more, Israel returns to the idolatry, carousing, and occultist behaviors that sunk Israel a hundred years earlier.  Daniel observes all of this firsthand.  He’s at the heart of it, in Jerusalem, watching his beloved nation come to ruin.

Four years after Josiah died, Nebuchadnezzar and his armies come, attack Jerusalem, and win.[2]  Note how Isaiah prophetically described those days:

The Lord, the Lord Almighty,
    called you on that day
to weep and to wail,
    to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth.
But see, there is joy and revelry,
    slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep,
    eating of meat and drinking of wine!
“Let us eat and drink,” you say,
    “for tomorrow we die!”[3]

From the heights of faithfulness to God in 612 BC Judah sinks to the very depths just seven years later.  Jerusalem itself falls. Daniel is careful to mention – twice – that sacred objects from the temple were taken into the temple of the false gods of Babylon. This apparently was devastating to godly Daniel.

Daniel has several months to ponder it all, traveling to Babylon over 500 miles away.   Soon he learns of Jeremiah’s prophesy that there will be no return from his exile for 70 long years.   

Take a moment to imagine the emotions of that – walk 500 miles in young Daniel’s moccasins.  

The Hebrew word often translated “eunuch” is unclear[4], but there is a good chance Daniel was castrated.  The Babylonian name he was given meant “Lady protect the King.[5]”  His first challenge was to study, for three long years, the occultist practices of the Chaldeans – the very same practices that he watched, firsthand, ruin Judah:

The Hebrew youths were trained in the wisdom of Babylon.  This involved being acquainted with polytheistic writings and occult practices, astrology, divination, and magic – knowledge forbidden in Israel.  It was spiritual patbag, [sic] the educational equivalent to Nebuchadnezzar’s rich food.  The youths became experts in the occult, learned in the lore of Babylon.  Their education was intended to alienate them from their Israelite culture.[6] 
Of top of that, Daniel’s next challenge was to abstain from food offered to idols – at the peril of his life.  Through all of it, serving under a heathen egomaniac[7] and at least two other ethically-challenged tyrant kings, Daniel stayed steady and true to his faith.

How did he do it?

Daniel was flesh and blood like all of us.  Studying his childhood and teenage years, it is more understandable why he would not give up his faith in Yahweh.  We should use the lessons of his childhood and teenage years to raise- up kids for an uncertain future.

Daniel observed and experienced the death, destruction and lies of the ungodly first hand.  He didn’t read about it in a book.  It was no intellectual exercise to him.  It was life and death – perhaps even the life of his parents.  For Daniel, it was as real as it gets. 

As we think about how we train kids in secondary education, a few years away from the "real" world, what we are talking about here is much, much, more than apologetics.  Our kids need to experience God, and to understand, at a gut, visceral, emotional level - the real consequences of evil. 

That process can begin with a book or a video, but ultimately it ends with a person – a teacher, a mentor, or an inspirational speaker.

CRITICALLY, we need to have our high school kids study and learn at a heart level what happens when godless people with money and power really mess things up – when individual lives, families, peoples, companies, and entire nations come to ruin without a belief in God.  We need to do this high school, with a Christian worldview critique, as did Jeremiah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk in Daniels’ time.  We need to make it as real as we possibly can.

A very practical application of all of this is how to deal with Pastors and other idealistic Christians who believe that the best thing they can do for their high school kids is to put them in public high schools, to “experience the world.”

Sure, we can let our kids experience their peers being stupid – drinking, smoking, carousing, etc. But to really mess things up takes power and money.  And that’s what Daniel observed first hand – people with power and money ruining an entire nation. 

It wasn’t Daniel’s peers who were the problem:, it was the people in charge.

I’m amazed at all the people connections flowing around Christian schools.  We can find articulate Christians who experienced godless people really messing things up.  They can share their experiences with our students in class or in assemblies. 

Recent history provides all kinds of opportunities to accomplish what I’m describing, with living Christians who experienced, firsthand, the consequences of evil.

(1) POWs from Vietnam are still available, and many of these are Christians. 

(2) Iceland is about 4% evangelical Christian, Greece, less than 1%.  Michael Lewis, the author of Moneyball, describes how Iceland got into national debt several hundred times their gross domestic product in his funny book, Boomerang.   If I could wave a magic wand, this book would be read and discussed (with supplemental information) by every Christian high schooler in the country.  Inside Job is a nice documentary on this, but there are many.  We can study the economics of it, and then talk about the real impact of evil at the highest levels of government and business.  (Perhaps we can even encourage a few Christians to consider economics as a career).)

(3) Albania is in ruins after decades of being an atheistic country.  Our Christian high schoolers need to study why.  There are over 100,000 Albanians in the United States, concentrated in our largest cities.   (Japan is another possibility.)

(4) Made right here in the good old USA, Enron’s collapse cost shareholders $94 billion.  Jeffrey Skilling’s views of evolution were applied to staffing decisions;, the consequence was that every year, 10% of every department (“the weaklings”) had to be laid off -mandatory.  Hence, the corporate culture of Enron became one where dissent was not tolerated.  (Read: The Smartest Guys in the Room)There are many former Enron employees and stockholders around the country who could speak to our students.

(5) The Hindu system of India has systematically abused lower classes for three millennia, to this very day.  Our high schoolers should know why, and see what a difference Christianity has made in Northeast India.  Missionaries and immigrants alike could speak to our students about the horrors of the caste system.

(6) We can find many Christians who converted later in life, and carry with them heart-ache and pain of their pre-Christian legacy.  I was surprised to learn that a key secretary to a major mega church pastor in Colorado Springs had been married four times – three times as an unbeliever.  Some of these will talk to our students.  Former drug addicts and alcoholics, now Christian, can speak to our kids.  Ditto ex- felons.[8]

(7) There are Romanians in the US who experienced firsthand the evils of Nicolae Ceausescu.  Any totalitarian country will have Christian immigrants who would be available to speak to your students.

(8) I have run into many people in my travels who participated in one way or another with the mortgage bubble.  One conversation I vividly remember was a woman who told me that her husband did NOT go to jail, although many of his colleagues and competitors did.  There are many Christians who can talk to our students about the abject greed in the run-up to the 2008 crisis.
These are just ideas to stimulate your own creativity.  

As I think this through, it seems more impactful for real Christian people to talk to our students about their experiences when ungodly people have power and money, and lead corporations, peoples, countries, marriages, and their own lives to ruin. That’s what it was like for Daniel. Of course the character lessons must begin in primary and continue in the secondary, along with college prep academics.

We can talk about sexually transmitted diseases in the abstract, but over 30 years ago I knew a Christian man with late stage, incurable syphilis.  My somewhat incoherent conversations with him made an indelible impression on me.  We can talk about communism in the abstract, or we can have Chinese Christians talk to our kids about real persecution for their Christian faith.   

Daniel stayed faithful in the worse imaginable circumstances. We hope the same for our students.  If we were to follow Daniel’s example, the safety gloves need to come off in high school.  Through our watchful Christian tutelage, our kids need to see, first hand, how people who have power, people who have money, people who can write and speak or think, can really, really mess things up – nations, companies, peoples, families, and their own lives.

I know people who can share like this are available, because I meet them all the time. They need to speak to our students from the heart.  Homeschoolers can always watch a video, but we have enough students in a Christian school to bring in LIVE speakers – frequently. 

And we must – a lot - because meaningful, important activities like this – which are hard to do for public / charter / home school – becomes a key differentiating factor …  a key factor for parents to choose our school over the competition.  Of course, all of it can complement your students’ academic studies.  And these activities profoundly prepare your students for the uncertain future they face.

We need to think like that – who do we know from India?  Who lost their life savings to Enron?  Who recently lived in Iceland, Greece or Albania? What about missionaries? Who was involved in the banking / mortgages and saw firsthand the greed and devastation? Do we know someone in the entertainment industry?  Who around here has served hard time?  Who knows a Christian unwed mother who is struggling to finish college?   Our students need to hear from them, first hand.  If these speakers engender righteous anger - or tears are shed - so much the better.

Keep in mind, by doing this, now pastor has a compelling reason to keep the kids in our high school, and not go public with his kids.  We are accomplishing his or her objective in a much more sincere and effective way.

The temptation here will be to bring in the YouTube videos, DVDs and books.  There is a place for this. BUT …. Homeschoolers can do that, too.  Pastors can do that with his public -schooled child at home.  Charters can bring in a sanitized version. 

Importantly, multi-media won’t have the same emotional impact on our kids as live flesh and blood.  Our students need to hear first hand from broken, forgiven, restored people - sharing from the heart.  As real as we can make it.

(c) 2016 Dan Krause, GraceWorks Ministries, All Rights Reserved

[1] Which we need to develop in our children, but that idea seemed out of the scope of this message.

[3] Isaiah 22:12-13.
[4] It could merely mean “servant of the court.”
[5] Walvoord, p. 42.
[6] Schwab, p. 29.
[7] Three quarters of the individual bricks now found from his era have King Nebuchadnezzar’s name etched in them.
[8] E.g. Gary Skinner, Plain Vanilla Wrapper.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Home Grown Surveys ... for the Record

Having reviewed still one more home grown survey, I would like to state, for the record, the problems I have with home grown surveys.  Undoubtedly you will conclude that I am biased, since GraceWorks has its own proprietary survey product.

Struggling right now through another rather difficult custom survey project, there are times when I wish homegrown surveys would in fact do the job - it's frankly a lot of work!

In priority order, here are my concerns:

(1) Is it a good score?  Without comparison data you tell me.   (e.g. Please rate the overall customer service you and your family receive from ______________:    Excellent 46.60%, Very Good - 32.04% Good - 14.56%, Needs Improvement - 6.80%.  Help me understand, please: Is that good or bad?)

(2) How much do parents care about this item?  In other words, even if its effectiveness is not stellar, does it matter?  This is almost a tie with (1) in concern.  For example, for a Christian school, is "Teachers exhibit care and concern for students" more important than "Use of technology in Instruction?"   Answer:  The former is more important, BY FAR.  (How do I know?  Asked over 35,000 parents ... )

(3) If a program element is done poorly or well, to what degree does it impact overall satisfaction?  The assumption of our survey is that Christian schools have limited time and money, and therefore we need to pick out the program elements to improve that REALLY MATTER.   That's quite different than program elements that happen to strike my fancy ...

(4) Scale problems.  There is a whole book, (The Ultimate Question, 2nd edition) -  not to mention numerous websites - on the correct scale to ask the willingness to refer question:   On a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being high, how likely is it that you will refer our _______ to a friend or colleague?  This is not a copyrighted question.  How to score the question can easily be found as well.   Don't ask it Yes / No, Don't ask it in 4 or 5 point scales.  On five point scales, there are OCD / Perfectionists types who will never, ever give you a 5.  No matter how much you deserve it!  And 4 misses the cut on the top category of willingness to refer. 

It took Fred Reichheld 45 years to figure this all out - why mess with a good thing?

(5) Testing multiple aspects in one question.  In general, if your question or answer has an "etc." this is NOT GOOD.  Consider this question:  "Has your student ever been a victim of bullying, teasing, harassment, etc. while attending ________."  Can anyone answer "No" to that question without lying?  And do we think for a minute these are all equivalent?

(6) No cross-tabbing.  It's not just how many people answered a question a given way, but how does answering the question that way correlate with other important things, like overall willingness to refer?

Let's say that 50% of respondents check the box that says that coming up with the cost of tuition is a large sacrifice for them.  Is that good or bad?  Now consider if you knew that those 50% also were moderately MORE SATISFIED with the school than anyone else, and the difference was statistically significant ... How might that change your view of people sacrificing to pay your tuition? 

(BTW ... that is the typical result when we ask the question.)

(7) Opportunities lost ... to recruit volunteers, ask for leads, keep tabs on your alum.  Of course, this requires you to vary questions asked based on the answers to other questions.  Can be done, for sure, but difficult and painstaking for people who don't do it all the time.  (It's painstaking for people like me who DO do it all the time.)

OK ... I feel better now.  Back to another painstaking custom survey setup.

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

Myths, Realities and Solutions for K-12 Christian School Finance

Myth #1: Christian school parents are extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in tuition pricing.

Reality #1: Christian school parents are first and foremost concerned about QUALITY.  They are shopping VALUE.  It’s all a lot of money – not to mention time, hassle, transportation, etc.

Solution #1:  Any “cutting expense” solution to balancing the budget risks losing the core strength and main attraction of a Christian school, which is providing a HIGH QUALITY EDUCATIONFocus on revenue solutions instead.  That is our focus at GraceWorks, starting with real help in marketing and fund development.

Solution #1a: For many schools, significant increases in tuition or significant decreases in automatic discounts ARE POSSIBLE with limited consequences.  However, to really know if this is true for your school, you need to take GraceWorks’ Parent Satisfaction and Referral Survey. 

Why?  As a completely normed device, comparing your results to 579 schools other Christian Schools, we know, we know, WE KNOW if your parents are truly satisfied or not.  And that makes ALL the difference as to whether you can do something dramatic in raising prices. 

In addition, the PSRS tells you satisfaction by income level of your parents.  In question would be families who formerly “got by” with all your automatic discounts, but now must apply for financial aid.  (This would be the $50,000 to $74,999 level, and depending on the number of children, perhaps even $75,000 to $99,999.)   Our data is normed at the subgroup level, so we can tell you the relative satisfaction at each income level.

With a “home-grown” survey, you are never really sure whether your scores are good scores or not, especially when the average Christian school is so highly satisfying.  For Christian schools that are not so satisfying, raising tuition is a VERY risky proposition

Note: Both “Should you?” and “How do you go about it?” are in question here.  It is only because of the survey results of some 88,000 respondents that GraceWorks can speak with authority about how unnecessary many Christian School’s financial problems really are – ditto many school closures. (The “How to” part is explained in detail in our Revenue Revolution Bootcamp, session #5.)

Solution #1b:  In general, it is a BAD idea to present tuition increases as a percent.  Just state the lump sum.  There are many schools that are horribly under-priced, and need tuition increases of the order of 50-100%. (E.g. member rates at some denominational schools.)

Don’t present it the percentage way – simply state the amount of the increase in dollar terms – best is extra dollars per month.

Myth #2: The world has changed so much that K-12 Christian schools can’t survive.

Reality #2:  The problem is Christian Schools’ old wineskins, which are simply not working in today’s new world. To be blunt:  Old wineskin schools will NOT survive in today’s changed world.

This is particularly true in Christian school finance, where emotions, collective “common sense,” and “hardening of the categories” keep in place a totally counter-productive organizational culture.  To paraphrase Mark Twain, “What we know that ain’t so” is the real problem.   

By the numbers Christian schools are among the most satisfying “businesses” in the world, using international metrics.  More satisfying than Disney and John Deere, on average.  Many are more satisfying than Amazon or even Harley Davidson. Our parents will sacrifice to put their kids in our schools – if we maintain quality.

However, a significant problem is that the next generational cohort of parents, Milliennials, have lower income and wealth than any of the last three.  In addition, household income is highly variable, both nationally and individually.  Overall, the middle class is declining.  Many immigrants, now in many parts of the country, will also be motivated to have their children in a Christian school.  Many of these will likely need help to attend our schools.

Solution #2a:  Ultimately one-size, low-cost leader pricing will not “fit all.”  Because of the nature of our changing job market, and variable incomes, some parents, some years, will be able to contribute to financial aid fundraising.  In other years, these same parents may need financial aid for their child to remain at the school. 

To survive, Christian schools will need to move to a higher tuition, and often, a much higher financial aid model.  At a minimum, we need a full-cost model, but in reality Christian schools should be value-priced, which - recognizing past generosities that add value today – will actually be higher than the current cash cost to educate a child.  (And yes, the amount we should be paying our teachers needs to be part of the equation here.)

Solution #2b:  This financial aid program will, of necessity, be highly sophisticated.  An objective, third party such as FACTs or FAST should assess financial need.  To avoid abuses, and to engage the truly needy to apply rather than walk away, a Biblical integration of social norms theory in behavioral economics is needed.  (See session #3 of our Revenue Revolution Bootcamp.)

Solution #2c:  Behavioral economics has also taught us that price influences demand in often unexpected ways, particularly in big ticket purchases.  Many schools have noticed that demand seemed to go up with significantly increased tuition (e.g. The Rock, Gainesville, FL, East Linn Christian, WA).  Through a series of carefully controlled experiments, a giant in the field of behavioral economics, Dr. Daniel Ariely, has determined that:

Traditional economics assumes that prices of products in the market are determined by a balance between [supply] and [demand] … The price at which these forces meet determines the price in the marketplace … as our experiments demonstrate, what consumers are willing to pay can easily be manipulated, and this means that consumers don’t in fact have a good handle on their preferences and the prices they are willing to pay for different goods and experiences (Ariely, Predictably Irrational, p. 47-48)
Solution #2d:  Ultimately, for Christian schools to survive, we will be filling up our classrooms through a mix of full and partially-paying students.  With more students, our cash cost to educate a child will decline, while at the same time, total revenues will increase, as seats formerly empty now have partially paying students.  (With the exception of staff, we recommend that most everyone else pays at least 50% of tuition, regardless of the result of the needs assessment.)

Solution #2e:  Ultimately both church support and fund development efforts will need to move to an inspirational basis – and “filling the gap” is NOT that.  “Your gift(s) help children be here, who otherwise wouldn’t” is a powerful case for support when coupled with the very real benefits of Christian schools (higher college graduation, character, staying in church, etc.)   Note that only when tuition is raised can church support of budget gaps be redesignated to needs based financial aid. There is no way to do it otherwise. Needs based financial aid for worthy students is a cause concept that will be more supportable to younger church-going givers.

Myth #3:  All we need is more students, and we will be fine. 

Reality #3:  For some schools, this is true.   For these schools, a practical problem is – where would a significant influx of new students GO – into what grades?  Or more realistically, based on our typical entry points, in what grades would we expect to pick up a much larger than usual group of new students? 

The problem is, it is often difficult to fill a gap in students at certain grade levels, such as 2nd or 3rd or 4th or 11th grades.  Even with very aggressive promotion, we don’t get students “in just the right places.”  Thus, enrolling a large number of new students typically means we have to add a teacher / aide or two at our usual entry points (e.g. PK, K, 6th, 9th), which then negates our cash flow gains from the new students’ tuition. 

The lower the NET tuition – full tuition minus average discounts and average financial aid – the less likely it is that you will be able to “market your way out” of a deficit financial situation.  You have to add staff all too soon.

Solution #3a:  You have to know your numbers.  GraceWorks’ marketing coaching clients use an elaborate, multi-tabbed spreadsheet which shows you the results of hypotheticals in real time. This is both in terms of the overall budget, and per student costs and revenues. 

In many cases the only way out will be to reduce discounts and/or raise tuition.  A starting place for the change process is a leadership discussion on this question:  On what grounds do we say that certain people will pay less than the cost to educate a child?

Myth #4:  All financial aid needs to be FUNDED.

Reality #4: This idea ignores the positive financial impact of families who are paying 50% or more of their child’s tuition, even if the other half is not funded.  Typically this myth results in too little financial aid being given away, resulting in prospective families not enrolling, or current families not re-enrolling.  This results in empty seats and lost tuition payments.  In the case of current families who exit, often this leaves you with gaps in the hardest grades to fill.

(And never mind why we didn’t have to fund automatic discounts all these many years ….)

Solution #4a:  Do everything possible to raise dollars for financial aid, a year in advance if possible. (It’s a great case for support, as mentioned above.)  But do NOT limit yourself to awarding just the amount of financial aid you raised.  Instead, the amount of financial aid awarded would be based on the individual family need – where you are giving JUST ENOUGH for that family to say “Yes.”  In addition, use the “as you go” week-by-week assessment in #5 below to make sure that for the school as a whole, you are NOT giving away too much financial aid to make your budget.

Solution #4b:  To assess the overall effectiveness of your financial aid program, change your metrics to:
                (1) Do we have more or less net tuition revenue compared to last year?
                (2) Do we have more students than last year?

For our marketing coaching clients, we have developed very sophisticated methodology to determine if too much financial aid is being given away – both to individuals or for the schools as a whole.

Myth #5:  If we don’t fund financial aid, there is no way to know if we will make our budget at the start of the school year. 

Reality #5:  By converting your budget need into the number of “Full Pay Equivalents” you need, you can assess, week by week, where you are both in achieving the number of FPE’s you ultimately need, and you can thereby control the percentage of financial aid (relative to the budget) being given away. 

To be clear, no Christian school could survive if every student was paying 50% of tuition.  There are times when you may need to say “No” to a family who can pay the 50% if accepting that child will preclude a full paying family.  

Solution #5a:  Use the week by week FPE & ANT(s) analysis tool we have developed for our Marketing Coaching clients.  We recommend that an FPE is the actual cost to educate a child, regardless of your actual tuition.  

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Relative Importance of Social Media in Word of Mouth Marketing

From Contagious, (c) 2013, Jonah Berger, p. 10-11, quoting directly:

Help me out with quick pop quiz.  What percent of word of mouth do you think happens online?  In other words, what percent of chatter happens over social media, blogs, e-mail, and chat rooms?
If you're like most people you probably guessed something around 50 or 60 percent. Some people guess upward of 70 percent, and some guess much lower, but after having asked this question of hundreds of students and executive, I find that the average is about 50 percent.
And that number makes sense.  After all, social media have certainly exploded of late.
 Millions of people use these sites every day, and billions of pieces of content get shared every month.  These technologies have made it faster and easier to share things quickly with a broad group of people.
But 50 percent is wrong.
Not even close.
The actual number is 7 percent.  Not 47 percent, not 27 percent, but 7 percent.  Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online. 
Most people are extremely surprised when they hear that number.  "But that's way too low," they protest.  "People spend a huge amount of time online!"  And that's true.
People do spend a good bit of time online.  Close to two hours a day by some estimates. But we forget that people also spend a lot of time offline.  Most than eight times as much, in fact.  And that creates a lot more time for offline conversations.  
We also tend to overestimate online word of mouth because it's easier to see .... But we don't think as much about all the office conversations we had over the same time period because we can't easily see them.  

Jonah Berger is the James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  He has published dozes of articles in top-tier academic journals, and popular accounts of his work have appeared in places like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Science, Harvard Business Review, Wired, Businessweek, and Fast Company.  His research has also been featured in the New York Times Magazine's annual "Year in Ideas" issue.

2019 Update:  Note that from 2012 to 2019 Millennial Facebook usage has remained steady at 82-84%. Gen X Facebook usage is up slightly, from 67% to 74%.  Millennial's use of Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn has essentially doubled, from the teens to 37%, 28%, and 27% respectively.  This rough doubling is mostly true for Gen X as well, but lower overall.

Which means:  Starting from the 7% number in 2013, there would be no good reason to assume that the 7% has more than tripled, which is being very generous to social media.  It would have to be that the ratio here is no more than 80% to 20% in favor of offline word of mouth.

See April 10, 2019, Andrew Perrin and Monica Anderson.  Adults using social media, including Facebook, is mostly unchanged since 2018.  Note that this article is based on Pew Research Data, which also was the source of the Facebook usage statistic. (Survey conducted January / February of 2019)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Latest Net Promoter Scores for Christian Schools

As of January 6, 2015:

578 schools scored, about 88,000 respondents.  Average Net Promoter Score = 57, Median = 60.  By way of comparison:  John Deere (54),  Disney (50), McDonalds (-7), Indianapolis public schools 2012 (-24).

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

Test Scores DO Matter

A consistent finding in our Parent Satisfaction and Referral Surveys is the relative unimportance of standardized test score results.  A recent New York Times article noted the case of South Carolina, where all 11th graders are required to take the ACT:
The first results, from the ACT college admissions tests, showed that only about a quarter of students statewide were ready for either college-level math or reading. Just 6 percent of black students and 15 percent of Hispanic students scored ready for college in math, with only slightly higher rates for reading. In one poor rural district where most of the students are African-American, graduation rates have risen to more than 85 percent, yet not one student scored high enough on the ACT to be deemed ready for college in reading or math
Parents totally understand the need for college, and we need to make the case for the fact that standardized tests do measure college-readiness, academically-speaking.   We need to say it, write it, and then - repeat the process.

What's not in question is that our Christian schools do great on standardized tests.  What is in question is whether parents will care.

They should.

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

Close to Home Doesn't Help

In the same study, below - "Stubbed Toe Effect" - being close to the headquarters of the denomination didn't help.  For 10 of the 13 elementary schools we surveyed, "Financial stability of the School" was in the top three problematically (N = 1197).

Some people I know might in fact say that being close to HQ is actually a problem - hardening of the categories.

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

The Stubbed Toe Effect (Wonky)

On our Parent Satisfaction and Referral Survey, we ask both the importance and effectiveness of various program elements.  (Failing to do just this simple step is one of three key reasons that most home grown surveys are worthless.)  Both importance and effectiveness scores are percentile ranked (normed) between all the schools

In an analysis of a regional study of schools (elementary and secondary) of the same denomination, I stumbled across an interesting finding:  The less effective the school, the greater the average percentile ranks of the importance of program elements.

Operationally, a rough measure of effectiveness can be the average quality gap (average importance less average effectiveness) for all program elements tested.  You can also average together the percentile ranks of importance for those same items.

Running a Pearson Correlate, I came up with a .53 positive correlation between average of importance percentile ranks, and the size of the average quality gap for any given school, testing 15 schools.  Note that .60 and above is considered high, and .53 is a solid moderate correlation.

In other words, the greater the average quality gap, the greater the average of importance for percentile ranks for that school.

I hereby dub this the "Stubbed Toe Effect", which means that the perceived importance of any program element tends to increase if that aspect of the program isn't working so well.  (We realize just how important that big toe is when it's stubbed ....)

This phenomena is a double whammy for schools struggling with quality issues.  Now the same issues that are problematic become MORE IMPORTANT to parents.  Oops.

By the way, we have known for a long time that overall importance for any given item can be increased by focusing on it.  I implore Principals to be "statesmenlike" (stateswomenlike?) in writing newsletters:  Why we do what we do around here - to what end.

Probably the stubbed toe effect is fueled by the fact that we talk about the problems we are fixing (or attempting to fix).  More and more I think the real answer is just to quietly fix the problem(s) rather than making a big deal of it in public.

(c) 2016 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved\

What Mark Zuckerburg and the Average Christian School Agree Upon – and They’re Both Wrong

December 5, 2014

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg just announced that over the course of his lifetime, he will invest 99% of his wealth in charitable endeavors, including significantly enhancing educational opportunity through education.   But will technology address educational inequity?  Anna Kamenetz, writing in NPR, says no, citing a comprehensive analysis in Science. 

A couple of days ago, I met with a good-hearted Principal of a denominational school who also serves as a consultant for his denomination.  His goal was to differentiate by technology; everything was state-of-the-art, including one-to-one Chromebooks.  Plus he had shouted the virtues of the same from the mountain-tops.

From a branding point of view, he did everything right.  He changed his program to be technology-rich.  He trained his people.  He communicated.  So you would expect technology to highly important to the parents at his school, right?  

Actually, in relative importance to his parents, it was number #41 of 60 various program elements we tested, slightly less important than physical education.  In impact on satisfaction, it fared better: 23rd of 60.  (In other words, 22 other programmatic issues impacted satisfaction more than all his technology):

Individual student needs accommodated was actually his highest problem in terms of impact on satisfaction and willingness to refer.

In other words, while his parents expected it, yet the fundamental promise of computer technology – that kids will learn regardless of where they start – was a problem.

I personally have interpreted over 500 parent satisfaction surveys, all for Christian schools, and I see this relatively LOW importance on technology in survey after survey after survey.   This is common, and it absolutely is a disconnect for the average Christian school principal, who is either apologizing for his/her current technology, planning on spending tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade, or is proud to have recently done so (and wondering why enrollment is not up …)

The simple fact is that traditional achievement gap issues of race and income DO NOT MATTER in Christian education with an intact family, and are negated half-way in a single parent home:

Jeynes (1999, 2002a, 2002b, 2003b) analyzed the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) and found that not only do religiously committed African American and Hispanic students to better scholastically their less religious counterparts, but that when one examines these religious minority students who are in intact families, the academic gap versus white students disappears (Bryk, Lee & Holland, 1993; Demo, Levin, & Siegler, 1997; Gaziel, 1997)  International Handbook of Christian Education, p. 33.

This is a study of studies:  a meta-analysis, and it’s the correct methodology to resolve the big questions in social and other sciences.  To repeat:  Achievement gaps go away in Christian K-12 education if the family is intact.

So why exactly do achievement gaps go away in Christian K-12 education? It's technology, right? NOPE, nada, not a chance.

The Sunday School answer – Jesus – would suffice.  My friend Dr. David-Paul Zimmerman would call it the God factor – the development of Christian character than motivates and elevates children to rise above their current circumstance.

One of the most important books I know in dealing with minority or low-income kids is Carol Dweck’s Mindset.  Read the book, or Google “Dweck Mindset technology” to see just how unimportant and off the radar technology is in helping lower income kids succeed.  Ditto Focus by Mike Schmoker, or How Children Succeed by Paul Tough.   I love this quote by Tough:

…[Our] culture is saturated with an idea you might call the cognitive hypothesis; the belief, rarely expressed along but commonly held nonetheless, that success today gets measured on IQ tests …. 
But in the past decade, and especially in the past few years, a disparate congregation of economists, educators, psychologists, and neuroscientists have begun to produce evidence that calls in question many of the assumptions behind the cognitive hypothesis.  
What matters most in a child’s development, they say, is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years.  
What really matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, as list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence.  Economists refer to these as non-cognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us sometimes think of them as character.   pp. xii-xv.

A while ago I spoke at a conference alongside Rev. Paige Patterson and Glen Schultz, the founder of  the Kingdom Education Movement.  Rev. Patterson, the President of Southwestern Theological Seminary and key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, was asked how he would educate his children: Christian school, home school, or public school.  He was very direct:  He would homeschool, and that is in fact what his daughters were doing.  So much more efficient, he explained, no children with learning difficulties holding back his grandchildren, who simply learned so much more.

He gave this answer in front of a room full of Christian School Principals – and he knew it.  I would like to believe that with more reflection Rev. Patterson, who I respect, would have started talking about Christian character being forged in the home, but he did not say it.  His answer was more reflective of the cognitive hypothesis that many of us are caught up in. 

But achievement gaps go away in Christian K-12 schools because of Christian character – not technology.  In fact, our technology-rich public schools, where achievement gaps are largely getting worse, are not successfully instilling character.  Again, quoting Paul Tough, who does not mention Christianity or the church throughout this entire best-selling book:

A national evaluation of character education programs published in 2010 by the National Center for Education Research, part of the federal Department of Education, followed seven popular elementary-school programs over three consecutive years.  It found no significant impact at all from the programs – not on student behavior, not on achievement, not on school culture.  P. 60.

At that same conference, I asked Glenn Schultz what he sees as he travels about the country.  His answer:  A whole mess of Christian schools focused on academics, and apologizing for technology.
Note to Christian School Principals:  Mark Zuckerberg has MUCH more money than you do, and that’s the bad news.  It will be hard to compete with him.  The good news is:  he’s wrong, so you don’t have to. 

And the most important things you need to know about life (and overcoming achievement gaps) – you learned in Sunday School, not in front of an electronic screen.

(c) 2015 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved

Time to Start Blogging Again

Pardon the 6 month gap ... my most extensive traveling fall ever in the history of GraceWorks.  However, there are just too many important things happening, and I can stay silent no longer ...

(c) 2015 Dan Krause GraceWorks Ministries All Rights Reserved