Modernize Your Back Office
Still doing student registration manually? It’s time to switch to online.
By Forum Desai
As many administrators know, a traditional, paper-based student registration process can be unnecessarily complicated, inefficient in meeting a district’s operational needs, and costly. Costs add up due to paper consumption, postage, and employing staff to manually enter and reenter data that they collect from families and input into student information systems. Moreover, a paper-based process does not enable real-time access to accurate data that districts need to communicate with families and to make timely enrollment and school staffing decisions.
Making the shift to a technology-enabled, online registration process provides a viable and effective solution for districts looking to streamline operations, increase data accuracy, improve communications with parents, and save time and money. An online system enables districts to monitor the student registration process with insight and ease, access registration information from anywhere, sync student registration data with their student information system, complete fee transactions, and communicate with parents electronically. District leaders should also look for systems with mobile accessibility that allow parents to fill out their child’s application, stay in touch with the school, and monitor their child's status from anywhere.
After parents submit all registration forms, an online system enables these forms to be routed to the appropriate school or district staff—transportation, student services, and so on—so they can manage students’ data, complete the registration and enrollment processes, assign students to classes and transportation routes, generate reports, and communicate with parents.
School districts nationwide—including Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Vancouver (WA) Public Schools, and Camden City School District—have benefited from taking the registration process online. Cleveland, for example, uses an online system to manage its school choice program. Previously, the district’s school choice program had been complex and clunky for parents and its administrative team because technology was not being used to its fullest extent to manage the choice, selection, matching, waitlist, and registration processes. School choices, as a result, were often being made in inconsistent ways.
By implementing an integrated end-to-end system, the district is now able to effectively and efficiently manage its school choice program. This has informed administrators’ system-level thinking, allowed them to better manage the high volume of application data, and provided the tools needed to send timely communications to parents. And, because of its successes to date, the district plans to expand its usage of the online system when the school choice program for its charter schools is rolled out in the future.
For districts looking to implement an online registration system, it is important to engage in some prudent planning to ensure success for all stakeholders. Administrators spearheading the process should see to the following:
- Ensure the online system meets the district’s unique needs by creating a comprehensive list of requirements, including whether or not the system needs to support the school choice process.
- Confirm the system offers mobile accessibility. The vast majority of families own smartphones, and in the case of lower-income families, phones may be their only link to Internet access.
- Designate a project manager to oversee the district’s implementation plan.
- Communicate early and often to parents, letting them know that the district is switching to an online system and what they can expect.
- Make time for staff training so the administrative team can become proficient in the new online registration system.
Overall, an online enrollment and registration process is faster, cheaper, more reliable, and much easier to use, making it a needed choice for districts today. When districts implement a comprehensive online enrollment system, they save significant time and resources, and have the year-over-year data needed to make informed decisions for their students.
Forum Desai is the Cofounder and COO of SchoolMint, the leading provider of mobile and online enrollment and school choice systems for PreK–12 public, charter, and private schools.