School Choice Software Project

Project overview

MNPS started using a computerized random lottery selection process for school choice about 20 years ago.  The current software platform has been custom built to meet the current district policy and process requirements for school choice.  This database platform has evolved greatly over the past 20 years and the private contractor that has worked with the district to maintain the software is nearing retirement.  The current contract with the vendor is valid for the next three years and will end in April 2020.

The school choice platform currently supports a very broad range of district efforts for school choice.  This includes all means for which a student does not attend the child’s zoned school.  This system interfaces with the student management system to assure all out of zone students are enrolled in the appropriate school and make sure district policies for student placement are followed.  The broad aspect of school choice spans all tier levels of the district including custom application requirements for early childhood classrooms (Pre-School and Pre-K), charter schools, district optional schools, and other various forms of transfers and special placement.

Due to the broad range of school choice options the district highly values a common application process that makes it easier for parents to navigate all of their public school options in the same application process.  The current application process uses a matching algorithm that helps to align the parent’s prioritization of school preferences with the district placement priorities to place students in the best school in the most efficient manner possible.  The district has been working with charter schools to encourage the use of a common application process for the past three years and currently roughly half of the 31 charter schools have voluntarily agreed to participate in the district common application process.  The district is currently partnering with the mayor to develop a common application for all public early childhood classes in the district.

The goal of this project is to implement a new school choice software platform that will continue to support the innovative school choice processes and meet the various needs of the broad range of stakeholders for the school choice process.  The software will simplify and streamline the detailed district policies and processes to make it easier for parents to understand and navigate the process to find the best school for their child.  Additionally, the software will make it easier for school and district administrators to process, maintain, and update a large quantity of school choice applications in the most efficient manner possible.  The new software will support a well-defined governance model for the district common application process that provides benefits to each stakeholder group that participates in the process.'

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