How New York City uses Crowd-Sourcing to improve High School Selection

To help solve hard problems by leveraging the expertise of citizens, policy makers are increasingly considering the use of contests, challenges, and other forms of crowd–sourcing. As budgets tighten these offer many advantages for societal institutions—including paying only for results, establishing an ambitious goal without having to predict which team or approach is most likely to succeed, bringing out-of-discipline perspectives to bear, stimulating private sector investment that is much greater than the prize value. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and others believe that the greatest advantage comes from widening the pool of potential problem solvers beyond the “usual suspects.”

The potential of crowd–sourcing to improve difficult processes will be showcased on November 12, 2013 when the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) will unveil the results of its first ever NYC School Choice Design Challenge (SCDC).

Each year in New York City nearly 80,000 eighth-grade students and their family go through a stressful, high–stakes process: choosing from more than 800 high school program options. To make the lives of thousands of New Yorkers better, and improve the high school selection process, Innovate New York City Schools (iNYCS) led six startups through the first School Choice Design Challenge (SCDC) to create prototypes of new tools for the school choice experience.

Through participatory design research, panels, business logic briefings, and user feedback sessions with students and families, SCDC startups deepened their understanding of the challenge, validated their ideas, and pivoted their products to enhance the high school choice experience.  Ultimately six different software applications were designed to support students and families during the high school choice process. These will be compared on November 12th publicly at the General Assembly (East Campus – link for Eventbrite registration is

To learn more about how New York City is leveraging crowd-sourcing listen to Innovate NYC Schools Executive Director Steven Hodas explain the Gap App Challenge for middle–school math to The GovLab Academy (see below), or read this interview on Scientific American’s Budding Scientist blog.

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