While families in many school districts throughout the country can choose from a variety of charter and district schools for their children, the application and enrollment process remains complicated. Parents often have to fill out multiple application forms and navigate different deadlines and selection preferences. As the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) has noted in previous research, “not only is this process difficult for families, it favors families with the time and knowledge to navigate its inherent complexities.” In addition to the difficulties it presents for families, such system inconsistencies can make it harder for decision makers to strategically plan in key areas such as budget and staffing.
In order to make school choice less complicated, some cities are beginning to unify their enrollment systems across district and charter schools. This involves a transparent matching process that systematically assigns students to schools based on both school and student preferences, with families then ranking these schools in a single application process. According to a new brief from CRPE, A Guide to Unifying Enrollment: The What, Why, and How for Those Considering It, “several of these pioneering cities have seen their unified enrollment systems lead to greater transparency and consistency around admissions, better school information, and a more manageable and efficient enrollment process”. Presented in a Q&A format that provides lessons from CRPE research on several cities at various stages of the implementation process, this brief is intended to help people who are tasked with learning more – and making decisions – about unified enrollment systems, engaging stakeholders, and whether it is a good fit for their city.
In addition to this work, Robin Lake, director of CRPE, was recently featured in both a blog and podcast to discuss five financial pitfalls that charters can and should avoid with thoughtful planning. Considering the frequency of funding issues in school districts, creating a unified enrollment process eliminates barriers to options and helps inform strategic decisions about managing school budgets.
For advocates working on, or wanting to know more about unified enrollment, please reach out.