about SmartChoices and the School Search Tool template

The SmartChoices school search tool, which ran from 2008 to 2014, is no longer online.

In its place, we created the School Search Tool template, a mobile-friendly interactive map with a sortable results, which any organization may freely download and modify to host on their own website. Try this live demo of the new tool, based on the open-source Searchable Map Template with Google Fusion Tables, created by Derek Eder at DataMade in Chicago.

See Achieve Hartford’s version of the new tool in action at http://SmarterHartford.org.


Screenshot of School Search Tool template on a desktop.


Two screenshots of the School Search Tool template on a smartphone.

Background on SmartChoices (2008-14)
The parent-friendly SmartChoices school search tool was developed in Fall 2008 by the Cities Suburbs & Schools Project and Academic Computing at Trinity College. We sensed that families were overwhelmed by the growing number of public education options in the metropolitan Hartford region, which resulted from the Sheff v O’Neill school desegregation remedy and the Hartford Public Schools district-wide all-choice policy. Parents lacked a central data source that listed all of their eligible public school options, and despite the digital divide, we believed that the web was the best mechanism to deliver school choice information tailored to each student’s address and grade level. Achieve Hartford funded additional research and improvement of SmartChoices from 2009-2013, and development of the new open-source School Search Tool template in 2014.

Screenshot of SmartChoices (2008-2014).

Screenshot of SmartChoices (2008-2014).

To better understand how web visitors navigated the school search process with SmartChoices, Trinity College researchers analyzed search data (such as location, grade level, columns sorted) and also conducted face-to-face interviews. In all cases, we anonymized data and grouped our results into larger units (such as school district zones) to protect the privacy of individual users, in accordance with our research ethics guidelines. Read more about the web design, outreach efforts, and research findings of SmartChoices from 2008-2014:

Dougherty, Jack, Diane Zannoni, Maham Chowhan, Courteney Coyne, Benjamin Dawson, Tehani Guruge, and Begaeta Nukic. “School Information, Parental Decisions, and the Digital Divide: The SmartChoices Project in Hartford, Connecticut.” In Educational Delusions? Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair, by Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013. http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520274747.

Dougherty, Jack. “Commentary: Commissioner, Let’s Build a Better School-Rating System.” CT Mirror, December 28, 2012. http://www.ctmirror.org/story/18581/commissioner-pryor-lets-build-better-public-school-web-tool.

Dougherty, Jack. SmartChoices Website User Statistics for Year 3 (2011) and Year 4 (2011-12) and Year 5 (2012-13) and Year 6 (2013-14). Cities, Suburbs & Schools Project: Trinity College, Hartford, CT. http://commons.trincoll.edu/cssp/smartchoices

Dougherty, Jack. “SmartChoices: A Geospatial Tool for Community Outreach and Educational Research.” Academic Commons (August 20, 2010). http://www.academiccommons.org/commons/essay/smartchoices-geospatial-tool.

Dougherty, Jack, Diane Zannoni, Maham Chowhan, Courteney Coyne, Benjamin Dawson, Tehani Guruge, and Begaeta Nukic. “How Does Information Influence Parental Choice? The Smart Choices Project in Hartford, Connecticut.” Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association, Denver, 2010, and National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE) Occasional Paper 189 (April 28, 2010). http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/2/.

Coyne, Courteney. “Reputations and Realities: A Comparative Study of Parental Perceptions, School Quality and the SmartChoices Website.” Educational Studies Senior Research Project, Trinity College, 2010. http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/14/.

Hughes, Devlin. Designing Effective Google Maps for Social Change: A Case Study of SmartChoices. Hartford, Connecticut: Author, 2009. http://digitalrepository.trincoll.edu/cssp_papers/8/.

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