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Chances are, you’ve heard the term “common enrollment” recently. But what exactly does that mean? And how would it help parents in Detroit find the best school?

As the school choice landscape becomes more complicated, with more than half of Detroit students attending charter schools, the idea of a streamlined enrollment system has come up. Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and groups like Excellent Schools Detroit have all floated the idea. And the Michigan Association of Public School Academies has been working with an outside group to create such a system.

The Center on Reinventing Public Education, based at the University of Washington, came out with a study last month looking at how common enrollment has worked in Denver and New Orleans, which are the first two cities that launched this kind of system.

The study found that much confusion is eliminated when parents are given a centralized application and choice process for all city schools, including traditional public and charter schools. But the report also acknowledged common enrollment doesn’t solve all problems. Some parents still reported having a hard time finding the right school.

Given the role this idea is playing in Detroit school reform plans, policymakers and other stakeholders should take note.

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