Why we did this
Before DiscoverBPS, parents would receive a pamphlet in the mail listing all of Boston’s schools. The 28-page pamphlet was just the first of many steps you needed to take to register your child for school.
We wanted to challenge the way things had been done. Our goal was to find a way to make a daunting process more simple. We also wanted to empower parents trying to find the right school.
In 2011, we developed a new way for parents to explore school options for their child. We did this through a partnership with Code for America and Boston Public Schools. We wanted this digital tool to complement — or maybe even replace — the 28-page pamphlet sent to parents.
We used sites such as Kayak.com and Hotels.com as a model. DiscoverBPS allows parents to see available schools and filter those schools by specific needs. In 2012, more than 15,000 people used the site. A third of those users returned to the site at least once. For context, about 10,000 new students enter Boston Public Schools each year.
In 2013, Boston Public Schools put in place a new policy for how they placed students in schools. This meant we had to rework DiscoverBPS. We released a new, easier-to-use version that incorporated the new policy. We made this update through a partnership with Joel Mahoney and design firm Objective Subjective. We also launched an ad campaign to promote DiscoverBPS.
Results and lessons learned
In 2014, DiscoverBPS logged more than 48,000 sessions from more than 28,500 unique users. The School Department also fully embraced the change. They played a big role in pushing the project forward.
We hope in the future to add features that allow parents to register. We also want to communicate with parents through the website.
DiscoverBPS prompted the school department to develop a new API. Now, they don’t have to manage school data in both DiscoverBPS and elsewhere. This allows for continued innovation from other app developers.