St. Louis families have access to a wide variety of schools—public, charter, private, and specialty—but reliable information is hard to find. This lack of access makes a complicated decision even more difficult, especially for families of color and those with economic barriers. Throw in today’s busy family schedules and the task of finding a school where your child can thrive becomes a confusing chore. Modeled after success seen in cities like Boston, Indianapolis, and Kansas City, we’re building a dynamic St. Louis School Finder to give parents and families the information they need to confidently choose the best school for them.
Steve Cartwright, The Opportunity Trust project manager for the community effort and education data expert, explains that a crucial step in creating a useful tool, instead of just another website, was to talk to parents in the St. Louis area to learn what concerns and priorities are unique to them. “We found that parents (here) are skeptical about the sources of school information, and are overwhelmed by the amount of information and how scattered it is. We’re working to build the transparent and unified resource that they’re missing. When you’re creating a school finder, there’s a tendency to want to serve the best interests of the schools,” Cartwright says, “But it’s really important that we focus on the parents.”
Connecting with more than 100 St. Louis families through focus groups and surveys gave us valuable insights into the wants, needs and concerns of parents when choosing schools. Now, thanks to these families and our Executive Committee of community leaders we’re on our way to building a user-focused School Finder that will include:
- Mobile-first functionality especially for smartphones providing easy access to crucial information for busy parents.
- The ability to sort and compare school options by the criteria most important to a particular family or child.
- “Rich content” — to give parents a feel for the true culture of schools, an issue that was raised often during focus groups.
- Tips for parents on how to get started on their school search, what makes a successful school visit, and more.
The School Finder planning process is in full swing and we continue to seek out community feedback to ensure that it is a worthwhile tool. If you are or know a St. Louis parent of school age children, we would appreciate your input into the School Finder development process. Please follow this link to answer a brief survey. Your input helps us make critical information accessible to all.
Learn more about how the School Finder fits into a larger effort by The Opportunity Trust to help parents and educators learn what is working and advocate for school improvement.
Update as of January 18, 2020: the School Finder is set to release here in the Spring of 2020 as an independent 501(c)(3) named Navigate STL Schools.