Choice without good information is no choice at all.

Photo Credit: The 74

Photo Credit: The 74

In the ideal school marketplace, a given parent would have the means to assess the right fit for their child from a variety of high quality options with attributes potentially unique to meet global and individual student needs.

We know that one size does not fit all, but the wrong fit can send a child on a path for which they cannot recover.

This ideal marketplace would also be free of partisan wrangling and posturing that prohibit the creation of a comprehensive system that would not only allow for exchange of honest information for all schools, but allow parents the one stop shop ability to set up school visits, speak to personnel and apply to the school they feel represents the best opportunity for their child’s success.

This is the lane that Enroll Indy seeks to fill.

A two-year old Indianapolis-based organization, Enroll Indy was founded on the premise that all students should be afforded the opportunity to access great schools that meet their individual needs.

The work of the organization to date is in direct response to findings of a 2015 report assessing the state of public school enrollment in Indianapolis. Among key findings, the report identified significant barriers to access of high quality schools for the uninformed, and a general lack of transparency around choice and enrollment in Indianapolis.

Since its founding, the organization has worked toward the development of a seamless system that will ultimately enable parents the ability to become true education consumers when considering their children’s school options.

Last November the organization launched its School Finder, an online, interactive option for stakeholders that offers a variety of information for parents including grade level, academic, and elective programs, transportation and Out-of-School Time options for participating Indianapolis Public Schools and area charter schools.  In essence, the School Finder not only serves a tool for parents searching for information on public school options, it affords participating schools the opportunity to highlight and market its strengths, coupled with objective information on overall performance. Based on input from vested stakeholders, Enroll Indy intentionally developed this service in a manner that focuses less on arbitrary school grades determined by a flawed accountability measure, and more on each school’s unique attributes.

In addition to the School Finder, the organization is on track to launch the unified enrollment application by November, 2017, providing that one stop shopping experience for which parents have cited a sore need. In the meantime, the organization has committed to an aggressive outreach campaign to ensure parents are informed as to what in Greater Indianapolis is now the best means to exercise public school choice.

“It's funny, because many of the people who don't like school choice don't like it because they believe its inequitable (for example, they might believe that certain types of schools won't let in certain types of students),” said Caitlin Hannon, Enroll Indy Founder/Executive Director. “We're actually working to ADDRESS those inequities--not make them worse. When people are critical of school choice and they associate Enroll Indy with school choice, my response is that we're working to FIX a lot of the broken pieces of choice. We don't care what schools families choose--neighborhood, magnet, etc. We just care that every parent is empowered with the tools and information they need to find the right place for their child.”

Like her staff of long time education warriors, Hannon is no stranger to the fights that have stifled collaboration in pursuit of the highest quality educational options for our students in most need. A former IPS School Board Commissioner and former head of Teach Plus Indianapolis, Hannon admits the advancements that come with the organization’s leadership toward the unified enrollment process are not perfect. The School Finder for example has continually evolved, the result of family and parent focus group feedback. Additionally, while townships and other public options may eventually make their way to this process; emphasis on may, the contention surrounding the integration of private and virtual options have been enough to shelve such a notion for the time being.

Imperfect, but those that have already benefitted are not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Since its launch, Enroll Indy can boast services that for many parents are reaping immediate benefit.

“We've had families with very unique and challenging circumstances and we've been able to help them find schools that really are the right fit,” Hannon added. “Sometimes that's a charter or choice program, but sometimes it’s their neighborhood school as well. We're hoping to continue engaging parents so that we don't lose touch of what meets the needs of all families.”