Driving School Choice Through Cloud Computing

By Marty Young, Acumen Solutions Public Sector Education team
In recent years the words “school choice” have gained increasing buzz among educators and parents in cities across the United States. Many reformers believe that providing students and parents with options beyond their geographically assigned school will promote healthy competition among schools and give parents the opportunity to seek out a school that will best meet the needs of their children.
At the heart of school choice is a common enrollment system and student assignment mechanism. When schools within a system collaborate to create an easy to navigate enrollment system with common deadlines and transparency, students and parents are better able to make informed decisions and exercise their right to school choice.
Prior to the advent of cloud computing, enrollment in large urban districts was cumbersome and involved substantial amounts of paperwork. Often, parents were met with differing deadlines and were forced to go to multiple locations and drop off numerous forms which would then be entered into spreadsheets or outdated on-premise systems. The capacity for districts to move away from geographically-based student assignment was significantly hindered by the reliance on paper-based data collection and clunky systems of record with no ability to communicate centrally.
Recently, the school choice movement has been dramatically changed by the advancement and adoption of cloud computing technologies. Sharing information on schools, enabling parent driven applications, and providing a streamlined enrollment data collection and management process are all outcomes of cloud computing. Yesterday’s on-premise or hosted solutions are hindered by flexibility and scalability limitations, thereby limiting the usefulness.
I’d like to share one such example with you where a community has been radically changed by the advent of cloud computing. In 2012, the Louisiana Recovery School District (RSD) in New Orleans followed through on its commitment to the community to unite all charter schools in the district under one common enrollment system that would allow every parent the opportunity to vie for a seat at the schools of their choice.
In order to do this the RSD needed an agile system that would allow for enrollment data collection to occur at any one of approximately 80 sites throughout the city. This data would then be accessed centrally and fed into a student assignment algorithm that would match students with the schools of their choice. In order to complete this daunting task in a short period of time, the RSD worked with a team from Acumen Solutions to leverage the SchoolForce™ platform to collect, store, and retrieve their student enrollment data.
By simply allowing users across the city to enter student application information into this system that would then store the data “in the cloud,” the RSD was able to streamline deadlines and processes that previously prevented this type of district wide collaboration. The RSD was then able to pull student choices centrally and, using a student assignment mechanism, place students in the schools of their choice.
This effort met with great success, and nearly 30,000 student applications were submitted via the RSD’s new cloud-based solution built on the SchoolForce platform. Additionally, approximately 84 percent of entering kindergarten and rising ninth grade applicants were matched to one of their top three school choices. In non-transition grades, 76.4 percent of students were matched to one of their top three choices.
Fortunately, many districts are realizing the power of “the cloud” and are moving toward systems and processes that increase transparency and collaboration in ways that were never before possible. The limitless potential associated with cloud computing will undoubtedly result in significant changes in the education landscape for years to come.
The SchoolForce program subject to this license was created by Acumen Solutions. SchoolForce is a trademark of salesforce.com, inc., and is used with permission.

Marty Young is the Managing Director for Acumen Solutions Education Practice where he is responsible for overseeing all solutions provided to K12 customers worldwide. In this role, he is focused on providing innovative, impactful, and influential solutions that provide dramatic and sustainable improvements to student outcomes. His team is revolutionizing the EdTech market through the creation of SchoolForce – an open cloud-based student performance management solution that utilizes social and technical advancements to drive collaboration and innovation across the entire K12 user community. 
Mr. Young is a founding member of Acumen Solutions where he has held leadership roles in multiple industries since joining in 1999. He has been working with industry leading cloud computing providers such as Salesforce, Google, and Amazon for over 8 years. He currently resides in the Washington DC suburbs with his wife and three children. 

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