School & District Management

Denver, New Orleans Offer Lessons on Streamlining Enrollment Between Sectors

By Arianna Prothero — May 12, 2015 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

New systems to streamline enrollment between district and charter schools have addressed some problems parents faced as more school options have entered the market. On the other hand, some issues persist and others have been created with the advent of unified enrollment systems, according to a new report from the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Common enrollment systems, as they’re also called, offer a single form and deadline for families to enroll in almost all schools within a city—including regular district schools, charters, magnets, and in some cases voucher programs at private schools. A computer program matches students to schools based on things such as family preferences, school admission criteria, and number of open seats. (For more details on how the matching algorithms work, click here).

The CRPE report looks specifically at Denver and New Orleans, the first two cities to launch common enrollment systems that include both district and charter schools. The report’s authors caution not to draw too many conclusions from the study, as the systems they examined have only been around since 2012.

The study found that common enrollment systems simplified unruly processes that often confused parents. Prior to these systems, parents or guardians would have to juggle multiple school enrollment deadlines and application forms—some of which could be quite complex.

It’s also much harder for some to game the system—for example, reserving a spot for a well-connected parent—when the process is standardized and computerized.

And CRPE found that the majority of students were matched to a school among their parent’s top picks. The charts below show the percentage of students matched to their first, second, and third choice schools each year:

But even though the system may be fairer, parents can still feel cheated, the report said. It found parents often don’t really understand how the system works and they might do things that actually hurt their chances of getting matched to their top picks—for example, only list one school on the application form instead of the total number allowed. “None of the parents we spoke with could explain to us how the matching algorithm worked,” the report says.

Furthermore, there aren’t necessarily enough quality schools to meet demand, which inevitably leaves some students matched to schools their parents don’t want.

“More than anything else we learned from the early implementation of these policies, the false hope that can come with a second-best outcome might threaten the policy’s perceived legitimacy,” the report’s authors write.

The study also found that New Orleans parents were more divided over the benefits of a common enrollment system than their counterparts in Denver.

Many New Orleans parents reported that it was actually easier to enroll their child in a school prior to OneApp, the city’s common enrollment system. This was in part due to the fact that parents used to be able to enroll their kids in school at any time of year, and that schools would often canvas neighborhoods and sign students up for school from their homes.

By examining data from the two enrollment systems, the study also found:


  • Black and Hispanic parents are more concerned with a school’s performance than white parents;
  • All parents prefer schools closer to their homes, but that is less true of black parents;
  • And all parents prefer diverse schools, but black and Hispanic parents are much more comfortable with higher levels of diversity.

Although common enrollment systems have generated a wealth of new data on what parents want, those data are not being leveraged, according to the study.

System-level leaders told CRPE researchers they use enrollment data to guide decisions, but it can take years for policy changes to come to fruition. Changes at the school level could have a shorter ramp-up time, but the study found that many school leaders are not taking advantage of the data.

In addition to doing that, the report also recommends that cities with common enrollment systems help parents truly understand the matching process through simulations or interactive tools and provide parents with the means to make personalized decisions through things such school choice counselors, among other things.

The report’s full recommendations can be found here. And if you want to learn more about this topic, join Education Week for a webinar on guiding parents through choice on May 18, from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern time. Click here for registration details.

Graph from ‘Common Enrollment, Parents, and School Choice: Early Evidence from Denver and New Orleans’ by Betheny Gross, Michael DeArmond, and Patrick Denice.

Related stories:

Consultants Steer Parents Through Maze of School Choice

Custom Software Helps Cities Manage School Choice


Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Letter to the Editor School Mask Mandates: Pandemic, ‘Panicdemic,’ or Personal?
"A pandemic is based on facts. A 'panicdemic' is based on fears. Today, we have both," writes a professor.
1 min read
School & District Management How 'Vaccine Discrimination' Laws Make It Harder for Schools to Limit COVID Spread
In Montana and Ohio, the unvaccinated are a protected class, making it tough to track and contain outbreaks, school leaders say.
4 min read
Principal and District Superintendent Bonnie Lower takes the temperature of a student at Willow Creek School as the school reopened, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Willow Creek, Mont.
Bonnie Lower, a principal and district superintendent in Willow Creek, Mont., checks the temperature of a student as Willow Creek School reopened for in-person instruction in the spring.
Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty