"With fewer available seats in good public schools than families who want them, many cities face a vexing challenge: How do you decide which children go where?
"Enter Neil Dorosin.
"You have to allocate public school seats fairly, transparently, and efficiently, but it turns out that's not so easy to do," said Mr. Dorosin, the executive director of the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, based in New York City. "We help cities solve that problem."
Over the past decade, Mr. Dorosin and the nonprofit IIPSC have used a combination of economic theory and custom software to help overhaul the school choice and student-assignment systems in New York, Boston, Denver, and New Orleans. That work has converted a tangled web of school applications, deadlines, and admissions preferences into algorithms that generate one best school offer for every student.
"While IIPSC's initial efforts included only district-managed schools, the group's focus now is on creating "universal enrollment" programs that bring district and charter schools together in one centralized school assignment system. Proponents say that rationalizing the mechanisms that govern messy school choice marketplaces can help fix a host of problems, including opaque rules that unfairly benefit middle-class families, sometimes-sneaky admissions practices at charter schools, and long student waiting lists that hinder both families' and schools' ability to plan.
"Because the assignment systems generate reams of data on parental demand for different schools and programs, they are also seen as a pillar of the "portfolio" approach to district management, in which families are offered an array of education options that may be expanded or closed based on performance and other factors.
"While acknowledging that universal enrollment is not a "silver bullet," Mr. Siedlecki of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation said the data such systems generate can be an invaluable tool in helping school systems "grow their footprint of good schools."