As urban education landscapes grow more complex, families need help making sense of their public school options, both district and charter. To assist with this process, some cities have launched unified enrollment systems, providing a common timeline for procedures, common application materials, centralized mechanisms to match students to schools, and comprehensive information systems that explain the process and list participating schools. Roughly half a dozen cities have unified their enrollment systems and continue to refine them, with others starting to follow their lead.
This guide helps city education leaders better understand the benefits and costs of a fully unified enrollment system. It outlines the questions decision-makers should ask before initiating enrollment system changes that affect families and both district and charter schools. Given that education, governance, and political landscapes vary significantly across cities, each city’s effort will begin at different points along a spectrum and will look different as it progresses. This guide was inspired by the questions commonly asked by cities considering changes to their enrollment systems and draws from CRPE research on several cities at different stages of implementation.