NYC Department of Education

School Choice

How could we help New York students and their families navigate the high school admissions process?

Partners and Funders


The New York City Department of Education is the largest school district in the country, with more than 1.1 million students and 1,700 schools. New York City’s 700-plus public high schools accept students via application; each year more than 80,000 kids and their families list up to 12 school choices and are awarded a seat based on a matching algorithm. Could we make the complex process of evaluating and choosing schools to feel more engaging and meaningful, so that students make truly informed decisions about school selection? Working with the DOE’s Office of Innovation, the iZone, we carried out discovery research with several dozen New York City students and parents, school staff, and DOE policymakers.


Our discovery research set the stage for the School Choice Design Challenge, an app-development challenge sponsored by the iZone that was one of the first instances in the country where a public school district released data via an API (an “application program interface,” which allows software programs to talk to each other). Invited app developers created six new software tools to help students and families identify schools that fit their interests and qualifications. Ultimately, our work is informing the development of new supports that assist students — particularly those from low-income and non-English-speaking families — in making more informed decisions when selecting a high school.

The insights gathered from this work are discussed in “HCD in Action: NYC School Choice Program” on, an online training site for public sector professionals. Enroll in the course to get insider tips on how you can use in your own HCD work.

Project Team

Raj Kottamasu headshot
Raj Kottamasu
Bridget Monahan headshot
Bridget Monahan
Jacqueline Wallace headshot
Jacqueline Wallace