Build a Registration Event and They Will Come—a Dallas Case Study When Dallas ISD and their partner Big Thought engaged a research firm to conduct surveys and focus groups with parents whose children participated in the district’s summer learning program, they uncovered some interesting insights. First, they found that parents clearly respond to communications directly from school—almost 80 percent of students registered because of information sent home from school. And they heard from many parents that they want more details about the summer learning program, details like what the curriculum will cover.

The Dallas summer learning team also learned that students who registered were more likely to be from relatively affluent families than the students from the low-income families the district and their partner hoped to attract. The reason? Online registration, which the district relied on heavily in the past, discouraged many parents because they didn’t have ready access to computers.

As a result, for summer 2017, the district and their partner took a different approach, seeking to make registration as easy as possible for parents and for principals and staff alike. Students at elementary schools where the summer programs were being held could return their registration forms to the school—at these schools, paid staff are available to provide support. And all parents throughout the district were invited to the “Discover Summer PREP U Super Saturday and Resource Fair.” The event, held at a centrally located elementary school with plenty of parking and access to public transportation, was a one-stop shop for families to explore a variety of summer learning opportunities and talk directly to program staff. Parents could register at the event and immediately get a confirmation that their child was in the program.

To publicize the fair, postcards were sent to parents throughout the district. Flyers were delivered in bulk to each school. So were posters and yard signs advertising the fair. The mayor attended. And the district and their partner engaged local media in publicizing the fair.

Dallas ISD and Big Thought also strove to make the entire process appealing to and easy for principals. “We encourage principals to promote summer learning for their students who can most benefit,” said Crystal Rentz, Director of Summer Learning & Extended Day Services at Dallas ISD. “Our principals have a rigorous evaluation heavily weighted on student achievement. We talk to the principals, helping them see that summer learning can help students at-risk get the boost they may need.”

They also made it easy for principals. For example, the exact number of promotional materials each school needed were delivered, so school staff didn’t have to make copies. And, unlike past years, parents did not send completed registration forms back to the school so there was no need for a school staff member to track registrations (except at the schools hosting the summer programs). Instead, parents were encouraged to attend the Discover Summer PREP U Saturday and Resource Fair. The result—more than 4,000 parents and students attended.