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News and Speeches

New York City Department of Education Unveils Apps from the School Choice Design Challenge


The Schools Choice Design Challenge Offers New Software Applications for New York City Students

Apps to bolster information-sharing for High School Admissions Process

The New York City Department of Education today will unveil the results of the first School Choice Design Challenge (SCDC), a competition for software developers to design applications that will assist students and families during the high school choice process. The apps help families search and navigate the high school directory to find the schools right for them. Each of the six developers were given a $12,000 stipend for their participation in the challenge.

The Department of Education launched the challenge in September by recruiting technology companies to develop user-friendly applications in just two months. The Public Policy Lab, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the design and delivery of public services, conducted research through structured feedback sessions with students, parents and educators. Participants provided insight on their experiences with the high school admissions process, as well as recommendations to improve family engagement. In addition to these findings, developers were given access to the Department of Education’s extensive data on over 400 high schools. The six participating companies then each used this information to create a unique software application to enhance the high school admissions experience.

“High school admissions? Now there’s an app for that, because we continue to be on the cutting edge of innovative solutions to support students, families and schools,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott. “We’ve worked to develop extraordinary public-private partnerships in our schools, and now we’re doing it for our high school admissions. It’s just another example of our top-to-bottom transformation of City schools.”

“This competition took what we’ve learned from our previous software challenges—the value of keeping the users in mind throughout the design process, recruiting innovative companies, and gathering feedback from school communities—and builds upon it by offering open data on our schools,” said Deputy Chancellor David A. Weiner. “It’s exciting and inspiring to see the incredible outcomes of our collaborative efforts.”

Each company has committed to maintaining their application and adding new data for at least 18 months, and all applications are available free of charge to families citywide. The program is funded through a Federal Investing in Innovation grant, with additional charitable support from Amazon Web Services and Rethink Education, a New York–based investor in educational technology.

The SCDC marks the debut of the Department of Education’s first public Application Program Interface (API), an online site with public school data accessible to software developers, researchers, and other stakeholders, which can then be used to create more applications and spur additional research, and innovation. The Department plans to make more data available through the API, adding to numerous existing platforms that distribute information. Go to nyc.gov/doe and search “API” for links to the applications, the school data, and explanatory documents.

The six software companies participating in the SCDC include FindtheBest, InsideSchools, Noodle, Unigo, Admitted.ly, and Vital.AI. While these applications help families research DOE schools, they are not official DOE applications and Developers own all rights to their products.