“The information housed in Salesforce ensures we’re able to track engagement with families in a variety of environments. Salesforce helps us put families first.” - Priscilla De La Torre, Family and Community Engagement Associate, Austin Achieve Public Schools
Austin Achieve Promotes Educational Equity, Putting Students and Families First
Austin Achieve Public Schools is a tuition-free, open enrollment charter school preparing East Austin youth to attend and excel at the nation’s top universities. Since opening its doors in 2012 with 100 6th grade students, the charter school has undergone skyrocketing growth due to the positive and vital impact it’s making in the East Austin community. Austin Achieve now educates nearly 2,000 students–96% of whom receive free and reduced price lunch–from pre-K through 12th grade.
“We provide families with a choice for their child’s schooling, and a voice in their educational journey. This is the foundation from which we operate,” says Emily Morrison, Chief Advancement Officer. “We strive to deeply engage the families we serve and equip them with as much information as possible to choose the best-fit school for their child.”
Managing a Growing Student and Family Population
In 2015, Austin Achieve began to see a significant decline in the reading level of their incoming 6th grade scholars. “On average, our middle schoolers were arriving three years below grade level in reading, up from two grade levels behind in previous years,” explains Priscilla De La Torre, Family and Community Engagement Associate.
After conducting an in-depth analysis, the school made the decision to expand and serve a larger population by opening an elementary school program. “Our goal for the elementary program was to reach scholars sooner and close the academic gap faster,” says Morrison. Along with this growth came increased demand. In fact, the charter school received over 3,000 applications for the 2019-2020 school year alone.
The enrollment and registration process was entirely paper-based, and data lived in different spreadsheets making it challenging to understand engagement with each family. The Family and Community Engagement team sought to support the school’s growth by establishing a new system that could shoulder a significant increase in enrollment. They needed to maintain multiple touchpoints–phone calls, text messages, events–with families to achieve their goals, capture data for reporting requirements, and more efficiently manage key workstreams.
These challenges led them to seek a technology solution to manage the entire recruitment, enrollment, and registration process to deepen engagement with families.
Implementing a Comprehensive Platform
The Family and Community Engagement team reviewed several out-of-the-box solutions but found they didn’t have all the necessary capabilities. They were searching for a solution that included:
- A single place to store information and streamline processes;
- integrated communication tools to reach more families and increase transparency;
- user task and goal tracking to monitor progress towards enrollment goals; and
- reporting and dashboards to deliver the most effective outreach strategies.
After reviewing Salesforce, they realized they could leverage the CRM platform to manage all of their needs–recruitment, applications, enrollment, and communications.
“We would have spent a lot more time and money on another solution to deliver all of the capabilities we needed,” says Morrison. “With Salesforce, all of our required functions are under one roof. It really is a giant sandbox of possibilities. It’s exciting!”
Leveraging the Flexibility of Salesforce
The main components of the project were implemented in just four months.
The team started by digitizing the school application and registration process with Salesforce. Reporting capabilities were then improved to ensure data was accurate and updated in real-time. Enhanced communication management tools followed, along with dashboards to track event attendance and activity. Lastly, Austin Achieve expanded Salesforce to other departments to manage talent efforts, school-based activities, uniform distribution, and more.
Staff went from tracking student and family information in filing cabinets to centrally managing all data points in a single platform. And communications to families became an essential part of the workflow to ensure timely and accurate responses. More importantly, Salesforce enabled Austin Achieve to more effectively manage relationships with prospective and newly enrolled families.
Today, the flexibility of Salesforce helps the team make continuous improvements to adapt to additional needs over time. “We’ve expanded our instance to implement effective and efficient programming across a variety of departments–from talent to fundraising to communications,” says Morrison.
Looking towards the future, Austin Achieve aims to grow its use of Salesforce for postsecondary success tracking to prepare students for college, as well as to communicate more effectively with alumni.
Empowered to Engage All Students and Families
Austin Achieve saw immediate benefits and results since activating Salesforce, and over time, the school reports a 10% increase in enrollment. Even more impressive is the fact that a two-person team can now effectively serve thousands of families.
The power of Salesforce doesn’t stop there. When COVID-19 hit, Austin Achieve was able to quickly pivot and expand the platform functionality to support new, virtual processes. Over 200 families were scheduled to come in for registration–a key step to ensuring classrooms are set up for success the upcoming school year. Instead, the team developed and launched an entirely virtual enrollment process within one week to best support these families. They are also leveraging the platform to combat food insecurity–from continuously surveying families and community members to understand their needs to building contactless home delivery routes. Austin Achieve has served over 265,000 meals to date.
“The information housed in Salesforce ensures we’re able to track engagement with families in a variety of environments,” adds De La Torre. “Salesforce helps us put families first.”