Simplifying the Common Enrollment Process
by Mirella Rangel
As the parent of two Oakland public school children, including a rising middle school student, I know it can be confusing, frustrating, and challenging to navigate school enrollment.
When my son was waitlisted for our neighborhood school he faced the decision of selecting a school outside of our neighborhood and far from his friends. As a family, we decided to attend a school on the other side of the city because my son was excited by what he saw during the school tour.
The school is a great fit for my son and our family, but the process was a lot more difficult than it needed to be.
As of now, the school enrollment process can be intimidating. Not all families can access information about schools, manage multiple application processes, and take the time off of work to take school tours.
In the future, we hope that will change. Oakland Unified School District is exploring a much easier common enrollment process that provides valuable information on all of the public school options in Oakland – both district-run and charter schools – to establish an efficient, single process for enrolling.
A series of community interviews and parent forums conducted by the district this winter revealed that Oakland families found it difficult to get the information that they needed for enrollment, and it was hard to manage the multiple applications and deadlines for enrolling in public schools. This resulted in 30 percent of public school families not enrolling their students by the first day of school.
The process is inconvenient for Oakland families and makes it difficult for schools to predict enrollment and prepare resources for the coming year.
A proposed new enrollment system would help to:
- Increase the percentage of families who fully utilize the enrollment process from 70% to 95%
- Provide families with one process and application for all Oakland public schools
- Include a transparent process for matching students to schools
- Enable schools to more accurately predict the number of students attending their school to better prepare resources for the coming year
- Increase access of information for families to find and select the right school for their kids
Other cities have done this already. Our enrollment process should address the specific needs of Oakland. As the district develops the new enrollment process, it is important to hear from everyone in the Oakland school community.
Currently, representatives from the Oakland Education Association, charter organizations, the district, and community-based groups are meeting to discuss the design of an improved experience for families.
In addition, a Parent Advisory Committee, comprised of a diverse group of Oakland parents, is providing their experiences and insights to revising our enrollment process.
This fall, GO will host a meeting to gather input about the current enrollment process, get feedback about how we can make the enrollment process better, and learn how to support all Oakland families to participate in this process.
To share your perspective, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.