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

Parents’ Jobs to Be Done and COVID-19: What’s Changed?

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education—forcing students online, limiting interactions with friends and classmates, and more. But has it altered the reasons parents send their children to independent schools? Has it altered the decision-making process for parents seeking to change schools for their children?

  • Parents’ Jobs to Be Done and COVID-19: What’s Changed? NAIS recently conducted interviews with parents to better understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected parents’ JTBD. The findings indicate that the core reasons parents send their children to independent schools have not changed, but many elements of the decision-making process have. This report seeks to explore how parents’ JTBD have been affected by the pandemic.

Jobs to Be Done for Parents of International Students

NAIS conducted interviews with parents and guardians of international students. The interviews sought to understand the JTBD of parents of international students and how these Jobs may differ from those of parents of domestic students. The interviews were conducted by phone primarily with parents of students from China but also parents from European and other Asian countries. The calls took place during the fall of 2020. This report presents the results of these interviews.

Learning Loss and Independent School Students: A Jobs-to-Be-Done Perspective

Addressing learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic and communicating these efforts through the lens of parent Jobs to Be Done is critical to satisfying both the needs of parents needs and those of their child.

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.

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).