NYC Department of Education Student Matching System

This centralized management system for the NYC Department of Education has placed students in educational programs, according to tens of thousands of business rules and inputs from the students’ parents and from the programs

Challenges

Challenges the DOE Faced

The challenges we faced helped us to develop the most effective system in providing outcomes that were an ideal match to the preferences of each side. It operates similarly to sophisticated online dating platforms, using an award-winning mathematical optimization algorithm.

01

Thousands of Business Rules

Accommodating many thousands of business rules and hundreds of user interfaces needed to configure the system and run the matches.

02

Safeguarding Personal Data

03

Effective Business Intelligence

Comprehensive dashboards and reporting enable DOE to optimize outcomes and prevent problems before they occur.

04

Simple UX and UI

Interfaces are extremely easy...for use by teachers, guidance counselors many of whom were accustomed to an entirely pen and paper process.

05

Speed and Efficiency

The matches run in minutes, whereas they took a day or more with the legacy system we replaced.

01

Thousands of Business Rules

We conducted product definition with DOE subject matter experts in a manner that allowed broad and deep knowledge transfer, while making the most effective use of DOE staff time. We then suggested elegant and effective approaches to improve DOE's processes.

Based on a review of the economics and mathematics literature, we crafted an algorithm based on the Gale-Shapely matching process and incorporated enhancements of our own. The system accommodates many school selection method variations through an intuitive interface that offers powerful Boolean logic capabilities.

02

Safeguarding Personal Data

We safeguard the personal data of every one of the 1.1 million school children in the NYC public school system, and their parents.

Great care was required to ensure the system’s security, because several distinct types of potential risks exist. We took a "Security by Design" approach where each aspect of implementation was clearly thought through for potential vulnerability. 

We began with an encrypted connection and configurations and appropriate ciphers prevent certain types of attacks.

More sensitive system usage required a multifactor approach to improve security.

On the server side, protection was tied together with broader system security considerations to avoid attack vectors that might enable an outsider to compromise the systems, run unauthorized code on them, and achieve privilege escalation.

Effective Business Intelligence

Comprehensive dashboards and reporting enable DOE to optimize outcomes and prevent problems before they occur.

Each type of stakeholder can access tailored on-demand data and analyses that boost their effectiveness and impact.

Simple UX and UI
04

Breaking Away from Pen and Paper

From the start of the project, the team designed graphical mockups that depicted each of the key interfaces, in vivid detail. By seeing how the system would look and function from the very beginning, graphic artists on the team were able to identify user interface improvements that provided a clearer and more satisfying experience and that avoided unintended inputs. 

Special techniques were used to present explanation and support at the moment it was needed; to provide intuitive navigation to move selections up and down; and to remind the user when certain entries are empty, in case this was not intentional. 

05

Speed and Efficiency

The matches run in minutes, whereas they took a day or more with the legacy system we replaced. This is in part due to the algorithmic efficiencies we implemented. Additionally, we applied mathematical optimization techniques to help ensure the system’s swift performance.