Algorithmic Precision and Human Decision: A Study of Interactive Optimization for School Schedules

36 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2023 Last revised: 14 Apr 2023

See all articles by Arthur Delarue

Arthur Delarue

Georgia Institute of Technology - The H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE)

Zhen Lian

Yale School of Management

Sebastien Martin

Northwestern University

Date Written: January 13, 2023

Abstract

Motivated by a collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), this paper presents an interactive optimization framework for addressing complex public policy problems. These problems suffer from a chicken-and-egg dilemma, where policymakers understand the objectives and constraints but lack the ability to solve them (“the optimization problem”), while researchers possess the necessary algorithms but lack the necessary insights into the policy context (“the policy problem”). Our framework addresses this challenge by combining three key elements: (1) an efficient optimization algorithm that can solve the problem given certain known objectives, (2) a method for generating a large set of diverse, near-optimal solutions, and (3) an interface that facilitates exploration of the solution space. We illustrate the effectiveness of this framework by applying it to the problem of improving school schedules at SFUSD. The resulting schedule, implemented in August 2021, saved the district over $5 million and, to our knowledge, represents the first successful optimization-driven school start time change in the United States.

Keywords: Optimization, public policy, interactive, decision support, impact, education

Suggested Citation

Delarue, Arthur and Lian, Zhen and Martin, Sebastien, Algorithmic Precision and Human Decision: A Study of Interactive Optimization for School Schedules (January 13, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4324076 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4324076

Arthur Delarue

Georgia Institute of Technology - The H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE)

Zhen Lian (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management ( email )

165 Whitney Ave
New Haven, CT 06511

Sebastien Martin

Northwestern University

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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