Dozens of Indianapolis Schools, One Application: Nonprofit Aims for Easier, More Equitable Enrollment
Excerpt from the article by Mark Keierleber in The Seventy-Four:
In some cities, applying to school has never been more complicated. But in Indianapolis, a new nonprofit called Enroll Indy is streamlining the application process for grades K-12 to make it easier for parents, teachers and school administrators.
Enroll Indy will launch a common enrollment system that will let families fill out a single form to apply to public schools around the city — traditional district schools, magnet schools and charter schools — rather than applying to individual schools with different deadlines.
As Caitlin Hannon and other Indianapolis education leaders planned the new system, they looked at other cities for guidance. Denver and New Orleans, for example, launched the nation’s first common enrollment systems that include both district and charter schools — and those systems have made improvements in consistently applying enrollment rules fairly, said Betheny Gross, research director at the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington Bothell. Families were no longer able to schmooze their way into a better placement for their child, for example.
Still, Gross said, unified enrollment systems do have shortcomings. In Denver, where participation is voluntary, researchers found that 20 percent of families did not submit applications, and those who opted out weren’t necessarily living in neighborhoods with good schools. In fact, she said, most attended some of the lowest-rated schools in the city.
Common enrollment systems, Gross said, don’t fix the challenge of supporting families with complex lives, including those who are new to the country, may have language barriers and often are not tapped into social networks. “A single application doesn’t fix that,” she said. “A single application doesn’t manage the challenge of finding transportation to a school that’s not nearby.”