Across the United States, too many students from low-income backgrounds attend schools that don’t serve them well. To solve this problem, many cities now offer unified enrollment systems to ensure that all families have equitable access to school options.
Tulsa Public Schools offers a diverse array of school options for its 35,500 students, yet the district discovered that its economically disadvantaged and multilingual students were much less likely to attend high-growth and high-proficiency schools. Parents did not have a cohesive, transparent, and easy-to-use system to learn about their choices and enroll their children in the option best for their family. To address this, the district launched the Enroll Tulsa initiative to drastically improve how parents can learn about and register for quality schools for their children.
How it helps
Among Tulsa’s 81 public schools, 29 are nontraditional, including six charter schools, five dual language choice schools, 12 magnet schools, and six alternative-choice high schools. Despite these options, the district found that its lower-income students (78 percent of the district population) and multilingual learners (21 percent) were less likely to attend high-growth and high-proficiency schools and also less likely to transfer to high-quality schools or enroll in magnet schools. An analysis suggested that a lack of clear information and a confusing application process for families created barriers for students to attend these schools.
Tulsa Public Schools launched the Enroll Tulsa initiative to simplify and improve how parents can find, apply, match with, and register at quality schools. Enroll Tulsa provides a school finder tool for families, a single common application, and one deadline for the entire public school system. To support families with the enrollment process, the district provides ongoing parent outreach, translation services, educational videos and how-to-guides, school finder enhancements, and a website with detailed school profiles.
During Enroll Tulsa’s first round of unified enrollment in 2019, Tulsa Public Schools collected five times more enrollment applications compared to the previous year, thanks to streamlined enrollment and community outreach. This five-fold increase indicates that Tulsa Public Schools has removed barriers that prevented families from learning about and expressing interest in different school options. We hope that more cities will build on these strategies so that all students have access to the great schools they deserve.