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The KIPP charter school phenomenon began and continues with the program’s focus on academics and the preparation of graduates for success in college. But to parents and families of children attending its schools, KIPP has always been about something more: a customer-friendly focus on families from the time they enter the lottery for enrollment until their kids graduate. Technology has played a significant role in building close relationships between KIPP and the families it serves nationwide—and most notably in Houston, the birthplace of the national KIPP network.
“With the Lottery Management System, our applicant families benefit from improved access and information. And KIPP Houston benefits from improved accuracy, reduced administrative time for data entry, and better management of financial resources.”
Director of Strategic Operations, KIPP Houston
In 2010, when Enjuelle Livingston, KIPP Houston’s Director of Strategic Operations asked PowerSchool to design and install its Online Enrollment Application System, she improved the 20-charter school system’s already stellar reputation, made life easier for thousands of Houston families eager to submit applications for their children, and saved hundreds of hours of staff time which would have otherwise been spent manually sorting and processing applications. As it turned out, Livingston’s efforts were just the first chapter of a positive story that continues to unfold for KIPP, its students, and its families in Houston.
After the success of the installed Online Enrollment Application system, parents and families could more easily enter the lottery for enrollment in a KIPP Houston school, and KIPP Houston staff could more efficiently process their applications. But one major question remained for KIPP Houston: Could the process for randomly selecting student applicants for admission to one of its 20 schools city-wide be more efficient?
“Thanks to [PowerSchool Registration], KIPP Houston had made the family and student application process a lot easier for all involved,” said Livingston. “But now we had to face the monumental task of sorting all of those applications into categories so that we could fairly select the students and their families, whom we would welcome into our KIPP Houston schools.”
Prior to PowerSchool Registration, with more than 9,000 applications for about 2,300 spots, the manual entry of names on spreadsheets, the lottery process, and contacting selected families took KIPP Houston eight weeks or more. Applicants had to be sorted and weighted according to a number of priorities, including whether applicants resided in neighborhoods where KIPP Houston schools were located; whether applicants had siblings already enrolled in school; and whether applicants had a parent who attended a KIPP Houston school.
As installation of the Online Enrollment Application pilot was completed, Livingston began talking with PowerSchool about automating KIPP Houston’s lottery process. The challenge for PowerSchool was to create a transparent, powerful, and configurable lottery system that would easily handle any number of applicants, schools, and priority criteria. The system also had to be intuitive and simple to use to maximize efficiency. In short, PowerSchool’s goal was to help carry the administrative burden to free up resources for KIPP Houston schools to focus on what they do best—educating children.
During the summer of 2011, PowerSchool worked with Livingston and KIPP Houston’s marketing director to develop a prototype Lottery Management System. “It turned out to be an efficient process,” recalled Livingston. “[PowerSchool] was able to create the criteria buckets we needed and developed a centralized system to randomly assign numbers to names based on their match to one or more of those criteria.”
By September, PowerSchool had completed a working prototype, and KIPP Houston went “live” with the Lottery Management System in November. The new system worked seamlessly with the Online Enrollment Application module, and in January and February of 2012, KIPP Houston had collected, sorted, and assigned lottery numbers to more than 9,000 applicants.
“It was a night and day difference from the old approach,” said Livingston. “By the end of the first week in March, not only had we completed the lottery selection process, but we were also able to inform our schools about whom they would enroll in the fall, which in turn allowed them to start home visits with their new families. At the same time, it also enabled us to make more data-driven decisions. For example, we were able to see where we needed to direct our financial resources and our marketing efforts.”
Livingston added that the speed and efficiency of the new Lottery Management System also enhanced its already-strong relationship with the community. “Our applicant families knew we managed the lottery process in the fairest and most equitable way possible,” she said. “And the efficiency of the system allowed us to more quickly pull and answer parents’ questions about their place in the lottery.”
KIPP Houston’s new Lottery Management System continues to receive rave reviews both inside and outside the school system. “Before we worked with [PowerSchool Registration] on this new approach, KIPP Houston dealt with long lines, labor-intensive data entry, and delayed notification to families,” said Livingston. “With the Lottery Management System, our applicant families benefit from improved access and information. And KIPP Houston benefits from improved accuracy, reduced administrative time for data entry, and better management of our financial resources.”
Livingston added that other KIPP regions have been in touch with her about the Lottery Management System and will likely adopt it for use in their areas. “They’re growing and expanding, just like KIPP Houston,” she added. “And I tell them that [PowerSchool Registration’s] Lottery Management System can definitely help them grow in a more manageable way.
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