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How to Gather Error-Free School Enrollment Data

December 9, 2019 BY The SchoolMint Collective

Tackling an Age-Old Problem

For parents and office staff alike, the dreaded paper forms required for school enrollment have long been a source of stress and aggravation. Knowing that completing these forms can be time-consuming and frustrating, some families put off the task. Others inevitably submit incomplete or hard-to-read information. It’s not just staff struggling to keep up with multiple applications, deadlines, and rules; parents can easily get overwhelmed too. Either way, the consequences for schools are costly.

We had 13 different programs and six different paper-based applications

Mandele Davis, school choice project manager at Spring Branch Independent School District (ISD), in Houston, Texas.

Office staff work overtime, chasing down parents and guardians for missing information and transferring data from paper to an online database. In the meantime, school leaders are forced to make hiring decisions without knowing how many students they will be serving. Hire too many teachers, and precious resources are misallocated. Hire too few, and risk being unable to adequately accommodate the students who show up on the first day of school.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to this age-old problem: switching over to a digital enrollment system allows schools to gather error-free data, saving time and money while greatly improving the experience for families. Here’s how:

Get it right, the first time.

Avoid errors and omissions.
Transcribing handwritten papers into a database is a cumbersome, error-prone process. From data or form omissions to misreading a parent’s handwriting to introducing errors due to lack of familiarity with a student, there are multiple ways for mistakes to creep in. But with digital enrollment, parents are the ones entering the information directly (completely and legibly), and so those mistakes are completely avoided.

Collect all the data you need.
Smart forms in our digital enrollment system require a parent to answer certain questions before submitting an online packet, and ensure all information is completed before moving onto the next step of enrollment. This means no more incomplete data.

Use tech-enabled shortcuts.
Tech-enabled shortcuts reduce the amount of data entry required from parents and, in doing so, further reduce the potential for error. With autofill, basic information, such as a student’s address, automatically shows up wherever it’s required after being entered just once. And with autocomplete, common answers, such as the name of a previous school attended, can be filled out after only the first couple of keystrokes. Parents don’t waste time by having to enter the same details over and over again, and the accuracy of the information provided improves.

Get ahead by planning ahead.

Know your student body.
As families progress through the enrollment process, schools can keep track of the number of students at each stage. With a clear snapshot of enrollment early on, schools can better plan for the school year ahead, hiring the right number of teachers and allocating funding right where it’s needed.

Keep families on track.
Enrollment dashboards reveal when a parent falls off or stalls during the enrollment process. Schools can send a reminder and/or instructions to nudge families along and keep them current with any requirements or deadlines.

Save time and money.

Free up staff for student-centered tasks.
With a digital enrollment system in place, there’s no need for manual data entry. Staff can instead focus their attention on other tasks. When Union Hill, a small school district in northern California, switched from paper to online enrollment, they saved more than 300 staff hours per year. Staff members can now devote that extra time to assisting students and their families.

Utilize funds for other priorities.
Switching from paper enrollment saves schools money. There’s the money spent on paper itself, as well as ink and postage. And then, of course, there is the money spent on labor. Union Hill’s enrollment lead, Kim Boundy, said eliminating manual data entry has translated to significant savings.

Ultimately, time is money, and it’s saved us tons of money

Kim Boundy, Union Hill’s enrollment lead.

Give parents a break.
Online enrollment saves parents time, too. In California’s San Leandro Unified School District, the enrollment process used to involve waiting in line outside a school for hours. Then the district partnered with SchoolMint. Now parents enroll online, using just a phone number, and the system is 100% mobile friendly. “It’s making happier customers, a.k.a. happier parents,” says Superintendent Mike McLaughlin.