NAIS Research: Jobs-to-Be-Done Study on Independent School Parents


Independent schools are facing a new educational landscape affected by rapid changes in the demographic, economic, and social composition of their student and parent populations. Simultaneously, new competition is emerging, providing alternative options for high-quality education. Technology continues to transform every aspect of human interactions, including education and the way students learn and are taught. How can independent schools evolve to best meet families’ needs? Research into the changing market is a crucial first step in the path to school transformation.

Executive Summary

Previous research suggests that the new generation of parents may be more price-sensitive and may view public schools more favorably than earlier generations. A better understanding of what drives these families to consider independent education will help schools meet the demands of the market while maintaining their core values. 

NAIS researched what parents are trying to accomplish by sending their children to independent schools. The study, which used the Jobs-to-Be-Done (JTBD) methodology, consisted of a series of interviews with parents whose children recently enrolled in, moved out of, or were accepted to but did not enroll in an independent school.

The JTBD methodology is based on the belief that parents do not buy school products and brands, but rather they hire and fire schools to perform a “Job” for them. The JTBD methodology begins with a series of interviews with parents who have recently “hired” or “fired” a particular school or its competition. The results of these interviews are analyzed in order to find common patterns of hiring and firing behavior that are observable, not aspirational. Because JTBD interviews are based on actual behavior, include the true hiring and firing criteria, and are inclusive of the trade-offs parents made, the process can identify what is truly important to them and what influences how they behave, versus how they “say” they will behave.

Downloadable Content

Why Parents Choose Independent Schools: A National, Quantitative Analysis

As a follow up to this study, NAIS launched a quantitative survey to determine the prevalence of these Jobs to Be Done at the national level. This report presents the results of the survey, as well as information on how the results vary by demographic characteristics of parents and students.

Using Jobs-to-Be-Done in the Admissions Process

Jobs-to-Be-Done is a powerful tool that can inform conversations with prospective parents. The framework can provide an understanding of the reasons for parents’ interest in your school so that you can better align your conversations, school tours, and shadow days with their needs.

Using Jobs-to-Be-Done in Marketing

At the core of Jobs-to-Be-Done marketing is the concept of demand-side messaging, the idea of speaking to the needs of your school’s families when you are creating marketing materials. Demand-side messaging involves focusing on the progress you can help parents make, as opposed to talking about the features and benefits you find compelling about your school (supply-side messaging).

Managing Enrollment During the Coronavirus Crisis: A Jobs-to-Be-Done Perspective

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the world, school leaders are grappling with how to lead their communities through the crisis. Admissions practitioners are raising questions about how to keep their attrition low and enrollment pipeline healthy in today’s context of uncertainty.