Design with Care: School Information Displays Can Impact School Choices

Publisher: Education Next
Jan 07, 2019
Ira Nichols-Barrer, Steve Glazerman, and Jon Valant

Increasingly, families have a choice of schools instead of just one default neighborhood school. Especially in cities, the number of available choices is often large. For school choice to be good public policy, choosers—typically parents—must be well informed.

One way that consumers in the education market become informed is through online displays of school choice information, sometimes referred to as school shopping websites or school finders. These websites contain profiles of individual schools. While the content and presentation varies across sites, these profiles typically contain information about topics such as academic performance, program offerings, and student demographics. Some cities, like Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, and New Orleans, have integrated these school shopping websites with the cities’ online common application portals, meaning that parents have the profiles at their fingertips as they submit school requests. What they see in those profiles could directly affect which schools they select and where their children ultimately enroll.