Paul Barnwell wonders about school reputation and the various ways to build a “brand.” One way? Through supporting innovative teacher leadership.

Many public schools don’t have a unique brand; their reputations are almost solely built upon student demographics. And whether they are comfortable voicing it or not, when many adults talk about “good” schools, they are talking about schools with a more affluent student body.

My own school, Fern Creek High School, has been in the process of creating a positive brand based on the strength of our teacher innovation and diverse array of students. During our opening day, our building leader Dr. Nate Meyer talked about this idea, and it resonated with me. And despite having endured a school shooting incident last year, our enrollment is higher than it has been in the past six years.

Dr. Meyer’s comments, coupled with our surging enrollment, got me thinking about how schools either passively accept their reputations based on student demographics, versus actively crafting policies, structures, and programs to redefine their reputations.

In this Education Week guest post, Tony Siranis advocates for recruiting students to help brand the school using the rich array of social and digital media tools at their disposal. This is a sound way for students to create authentic communication to counter narratives about public education (often negative) that are published in the local paper of spread by word of mouth.

Beyond students helping to create a school’s brand, I’m wondering about other ways schools distinguish themselves beyond their demographics.

There are teacher-powered schools. There are magnet schools. There are places like Baldwin, Michigan, where the community has pledged to help pay for every student’s college costs. And many more.

What’s your school’s brand? Is it defined passively by demographics, or what you DO?


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