School choice provides an opportunity for students to participate in an educational curriculum that best fits their needs, including STEM, IB, language immersion, virtual academies, early college, and more. Empowering families with the ability to choose educational paths such as these leads to higher college attainment and more engaged students. Without a school choice program, these placements may otherwise be impossible due to students’ home addresses and district boundary rules.
Creating a choice program is rewarding for families and staff, but what do you do when you have great choices for families in place and no system to equitably and efficiently collect applications and run lotteries? Implementing an online choice solution could be the answer to all your worries.
School choice systems are robust and demand attention to detail and accuracy. With loads of private student data, deciding on an online solution is no small undertaking. Be sure to consider these questions when thinking about taking your district’s program online.
1. Is the online platform configurable?
Every school district is unique. And every school and choice program in that district is even more unique. There are many nuances between choice programs when it comes to applications and requirements needed from families. Having a system in place that can handle the robust needs of choice systems (that can also be changed year after year) enables districts to continue to add and update programs without the burden of re-creating the system.
2. How simple is the process for your families?
No school choice program is successful unless families are actively involved. You need students to apply to the awesome programs you have in place, right? Giving families the ability to access program applications 24/7, from the comfort of their home, could be the difference in the trajectory of a student’s academic success. Providing a platform to families that is simple to use, converts to various languages, and has the ability to associate children from the same family are other important features to consider.
3. Will your students’ private data be secure?
Above all else, protecting students and their data is of utmost importance. Research shows that local, district-based storage solutions or storing paper documents onsite often cannot match the efforts that software companies put in place to ensure the security of student data.
Be sure to confide in your information technology department to see what questions you need to ask a potential partner about data security and privacy. Some initial questions you may start with include: Can the vendor supply a SOC II report and are the processes in place FERPA compliant?
4. Are changes and updates documented?
Answering to families can be intimidating and having to chase down timelines and attempting to follow he-said-she-said conversations is exhausting, especially if a staff member is playing catch-up on the issue. With a system in place that documents and timestamps every move made within the application, there is no room for error. Solutions can easily be uncovered and questions can be quickly answered with a platform that archives and records every move.
5. Can this solution save staff time?
Between processing pages of paper applications and scheduling and coordinating appointments, there isn’t much time left to focus on serving students and families. Choosing a solution that allows authorized staff to quickly verify if an application was received, while providing updates of the application’s status to students and families, will save hours of time wasted tracking down applications. Plus, solutions like ScribChoice from Scribbles Software contain helpful features like an audition/interview scheduler and automated follow-up communication through text, email, and phone calls.
6. Can you pull reports for administrative use?
Access to reporting can mean access to funding. It can also bring the district the ability to add additional specialty programs. Without access to data, you may not be able to answer questions such as: Is this program sought after? Should we create another program like it? Where are the majority of students applying? With a system in place that allows specified users to view and pull reports, the district can make well-informed decisions for its constituents.
Taking your district's school choice program online is an important decision that doesn't have to be overwhelming. Partnering with the right solution can make all the difference for you, your staff, and your families!
Does this all sound too good to be true? Hear from Prince William County Public Schools' Supervisor of Advanced Academics and Specialty Programs Karima Wesselhoft as she raves about her experience in moving her district's program online.
If you are ready to transform the way your district manages student records, transcripts, forms, and applications, fill out the form below to contact our team today.