Thursday, May 29

Pre-K fix in the works at the DOE: details here

I just heard from Andy Jacob at the DOE, who said he had explained many details about the nature of the pre-K admissions problems to reporters at the Times and the Post but that those details hadn't made it into print. The Daily News had a hint of the details, but I didn't see that article earlier this morning -- there, Jacob described problems with sibling verification that may have led some parents not to have received acceptance letters when they should have.

What happened, Jacob told me, was that the DOE's computers compared data for the older sibling claimed on the application with the data parents entered on the application. If the address in the attendance system for the older child didn't match the address as it was entered from the application, the system treated the applicant as a non-sibling. But in some cases, Jacob said, the address-matching excluded children erroneously, sometimes because of a minor difference in the way the addresses were formulated (with a typo in the DOE's attendance system, for example) and sometimes because families have moved since entering the school system.

Currently, OSEPO staff are finishing up looking at every single one of the applications of families who indicated they had a sibling already enrolled, Jacob said. He told me he anticipates that the number of families affected will be a "small minority" of the 9,000 families who indicated that they had a sibling in their school of choice, though the number will be "more than 4 or 5." After the scope of the problem is clear, the DOE will decide how to handle the cases, he said, and families will be notified then if there was a mistake in the way their application was treated. "There are some cases where the problem was on our end. ... When we hear about problems, we solve them," he told me.

Jacob said there may also be families who believe they were erroneously denied a seat who actually completed the application incorrectly, perhaps by listing the school in which the sibling is already enrolled as something other than their first choice. (Sibling priority only works for your first-choice school.)

Jacob advised me that the very best thing parents who believe the address-matching issue may be the root of their rejection should hold tight while the DOE decides how to solve the problem. I know that will be hard to do, but I have faith that the DOE is committed to addressing the issues, even though it might not know yet exactly how to. If you just can't wait, Jacob said the best number to call at OSEPO is 212-374-4948. That's also the number you should call if you have other issues or if you still haven't received a letter -- though we have heard from one father who just received a letter this morning.

As always, we'll keep you posted as we learn more, and please let us know what's happening on your end.


Anonymous said...

This explains alot...
Working for the DOE I see so many errors on kids addresses its not funny. Plus The way we as parents write the addresses sometimes not the same way every time, could make the issue worse.
I actually received good news today my son was accepted as an unzoned sibling. I heard from our school but as of yet did not get my letter. I hope its at the house today...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, your kid probably got my kid's seat.

I have a copy of my application right in front of me and there are no errors.

In fact, when I called the OSEPO I was told that they *didn't* have the applications yet. I said "oh really? I have a copy right here. I can fax it to you or bring it right over!" I was rebuffed.

I remain skeptical of this whole system.

Angry would-be 282 parent

Anonymous said...

It explains a lot...but it doesn't excuse a lot.

As an IT technology professional who specializes in data mining and data "cleansing" technologies, I can assure everyone that there are many off-the-shelf software tools that do "address verification." These technologies were invented specifically to normalize and remediate issues with address typos that are described in this post. Businesses use these technologies all the time - for direct mail, for consolidated customer billing, for account opening, etc.

Any half-decent professional building a data-intensive software application that has a business rule predicated on address "matching" would know of these tools and how to use them.

Whoever "green lighted" the OSEPO system should have hired professionals to build their system and to advise them on how "NOT" to write stupid business rules.

It is all just another pathetic example of our tax dollars at work:
The government pays the lowest-priced vendor to build a system... then they screw it up... and then pay twice as much the second time to fix the system afterwards.

Bronx_shrink said...

Nowhere in the directions for the pre-k application does it say that you must rank the siblings school first in order to get sibling priority. Now it sounds like they are trying to cover up for something they programmed into the computer system but failed to tell parents!

Anonymous said...

How do I appeal our son's Pre K placement?

We got a spot at a half day program in the district but not too close to our home.

Our zoned school, literally across the street, was our first choice.

How do I find out about any kind of appeal process or wait list?

No one at the zoned school has any idea.


Anonymous said...

CMTW: Be thankful your child got any spot, let alone your first choice! Some of us didn't even get a seat at ANY of the FIVE schools we listed and were willing to travel to...

Anonymous said...

Basically, if you were a priority and you were erroneously rejected --you are now at the back of the line. Acceptance letters that were sent out can not be recinded. Great work DOE!

Why aren't heads rolling?

Anonymous said...

This doesn't explain why someone out of district (no sibs) got into my zoned school, while many zoned kids were outright rejected.

Anonymous said...

I wish the DOE would explain how the software works! How on earth could applicants be considered properly for up to five schools?

I'm no computer whiz, but it doesn't seem possible that the applicant pools were at any time inclusive...and if that's the case, why even allow parents to list up to five schools? To make it APPEAR like a choice?

And, how come unzoned lottery schools were listed in the directory and then permitted to conduct their own lotteries? This cost us two slots on our application, so we were really not even given the (appearance of a) choice of five schools at all!

Sour grapes? You betcha!!!

audra said...

why do you think the offers cannot be rescinded???
i feel as if our offer was rescinded!! we are a rejected sibling! and, we intend to fight this all the way possible. this is an outrage for all of the families, no matter where you live. a mess!

Anonymous said...

This problem goes way beyond the sibling issues that the press is covering. We didn't get into any of our 5 choices, including our zoned. And friends of ours didn't get into their zoned school. But we know of two families that got seats in the same school from out of zone, with no siblings. How can the DOE manage to and then justify giving out of zone, non siblings slots, when in zone people aren't getting them? And how can we fight this?

Anonymous said...

No matter how it plays out, families are going to be on the losing end. Personally, I think parents need to understand that if mistakes were made and some were erroneously admitted/omitted, then the DOE must fix it.

By that I mean, if kids were admitted ahead of their place on the priority list, then their seats must be forfeited to a rightful applicant. That's the only fair way of handling this situation since no new seats can be created. We all knew the rules of engagement going in, so no one can refute the priority order at this point.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that this is going to cost the city a LOT of money to fix-- people are going to sue (it IS America).

How about we brainstorm SOLUTIONS?

For example---If letters can't be rescinded and some other kid is in my child's rightful seat, then it would make it much easier to swallow if the DOE paid my kid's pre-school tuition.

I think as frustrated as we are we just have to wait and see what solutions the DOE are offering.

If letters can be rescinded and someone just let go of their Pre-K preschool spot because they got into a public school-- how can the DOE help those people find a spot if they then are told they don't have one?

Anonymous said...

8:39PM: I agree with you completely. The people who did get accepted aren't going to be happy about it. It's reasonable to ask the DOE to properly administer the process. That may mean that they need to re-run the admittance process. I'm not sure that it is even possible to do it. This would, of course, require the DOE to admit that they made a mistake, which they appear to be reluctant to do. They'd rather blame the parents.

Philissa: Based on your experience, what are the chances that these issues can be resolved fairly??

Adriana Velez said...

Wow, all this talk of re-administering the process and rescinding acceptance letters is very interesting. This is what I brought up when I talked with someone at the city advocacy office today. And it's what I'll bring up as I make my daily round of angry parent calls tomorrow (which has become such a fun routine!).

I say we keep the pressure up.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely keep the pressure on and keep advocating for fairness and an overhaul of the admissions process. Please keep on pressing all the politicians and other such dignitairies as I think it'll give the DOE a little extra kick in the behind to fix this sooner rather than later. The DOE just have to re-do it all again, because this mess is so very widespread. The OSEPO has been in meetings all day to try and figure it out, and yes, the problem is much much larger than a mere sibling preference thing. As I read all the comments about parent's with kids who have not gotten any of their 5 choices even though they've been in zone, while parent's who've gotten accepted to these same school being out of zone, I laugh because it is just so insane! Thanks for the useful insight from the IT technology professional regarding the address incompatibility!
Amidst talks of budget cuts for our schools, this happens, and IT WILL COST DOE ALOT OF MONEY TO FIX IT, AND FIX IT RIGHT!

Anonymous said...

Despitee the DOE official's comment to insideschools, this seems impossible to make right - can't see how they incite parents by resciding the offer already gone out in favor of sibling kids. But they can't add more pre k seats - they're capped at 18 per state law and many schools are out of physical space for any additional classrooms. And the private schools are all filled. This is really a colossal mess - how can the new york times write a piece about "confusion about process" - its a clear case where the DOE set a policy and then overtly violated ow its own policy. (and worse, it appears that these sibs didn't get ANY choices of their choices - they went from front of the line to no line!)
- A sibling family victim

Bronx_shrink said...

Oddly enough, I felt more hopeful when I first received by daughter's rejection letter (despite sib preference) than I did at the end of the day yesterday once the DOE acknowledged that there has been an error made. Perhaps it's because of all the blaming of us incompetent parents. At any rate I think there may be one way in which a fraction of the wrongfully rejected parents can be appeased. The city offers child care vouchers to low income families. If they are unable to correct this and place kids properly, according to priority, perhaps some families can be offered vouchers to be used in private day cares. Before the tomatoes start flying, I know this will not be the answer for most parents as they carefully chose schools that match their educational values. However, it might be good compensation for some other families to get them through another year of childcare costs. Day care, nannies, private pre-k are all ridiculously expensive. If not for the money, we would have been content to have our daughter stay another year at her group family day care. We simply can't afford it. I'm very interested to see what other ideas posters can generate. As those most affected by this (parents of both placed and unplaced kids) we ought to have a voice in how this gets remedied.

Anonymous said...

it is my understanding that pre-k is a privilege, not a right. the city does not guarantee a spot until the age of 6. if i were an in zone parent, esp. one with and older sibling situation, i would be foaming at the mouth at getting a rejection letter, but, as it is, it was never a guarantee in the first place. it never has been.

Anonymous said...

11:57 AM is correct in that no one is entitled to a pre-K seat (or K, for that matter), but we are ALL entitled to a FAIR CHANCE at getting the available seats.

The DOE established the new process with certain rules in place and they were not followed. We have every right to dispute the faulty outcome and demand a remedy. It may not get my kid a seat, but at least I can sleep knowing we lost on a level playing field.

Doug said...

When the policy published on the DOE website was so cut-and-dried ("Siblings will be given first preference for admission to Universal Pre-Kindergarten. Then all other students will be admitted according to the following order of priority..."), many parents had a reasonable expectation (a virtual guarantee, in our minds) that a sibling would be accepted.

With that in mind, we gave up slots in our current daycares that are now no longer available. I can live with pre-K being a "privilege", but the effect of these errors will have a much greater impact on the sibling families and the schools themselves if the priorities are not re-evaluated and corrected.

I.e., by not correcting this, the DOE would be splitting more siblings, causing more multiple drop-offs, forcing zoned families to return to whatever paid options are left for next year, and reducing parents' involvement in their zoned schools (a major ingredient in making our local PS great)!

air said...

has anyone not received a letter, be it good or bad news....

Kate Yourke said...

I think the screw-up of the pre-K sibling preference reflects a larger problem with the direction the DoE has taken and the values that direction demonstrates.

The pre-K admissions were subcontracted out, supposedly to avoid confusion and be more equitable. So much of the work this administration has undertaken, all the testing and data entry and analysis, has been subcontracted to private companies. I hear these are no-bid contracts. This a huge investment of public funds, while schools are dealing with budget cuts. Will the extra money from the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ever reach the classroom?

With the obviously shabby work the company in PA has done, making a mess of the new pre-K admission policy, what confidence should we have in the quality of work done by the companies handling these ever-more-important tests and assessments? This testing is driving the philosophy and the work of education, even beyond what is required by No Child Left Behind.

Behind these decisions is a deeply held mistrust of schools and communities, an assumption of incompetence, inefficiency, and corruption. There is historical precedent to support this attitude. But there is also a history (hello, Halliburton!) of incompetence and corruption when private subcontractors are hired with no-bid contracts to perform the responsibilities of the public sector. Where is the accountability for the poor work done by the Willow Brook, PA data processing center, hired to place our 4-year olds in their first public school? Was this a no-bid contract? How much of our precious education money was spent on this "improvement?" The growth of charter schools is another mechanism by which private interests are entrusted with public money. These schools are not accountable to the DoE, are not overseen by the District Superintendent, the CEC, or any other public accountability mechanism. Should non-educators be entrusted to manage the education of our children?

As the DoE hopefully finds ways to address at least this most recent error, the automatic rejection of legitimate sibling preference in pre-K assignments, I hope it will illuminate the larger issues and restore a structure of accountability to the NYC education system.

Kate Yourke
(parent of pre-K child assigned to school other than zoned school where sibling attends, D14)

Anonymous said...

My biggest question is: Why did DOE change the registration in the first place? To take the control from the school is clearly problematic. I'm with having a "do over" as was suggested earlier and giving control back to the individual schools. Then having a task force of principals in each district work out a plan that would work for its community at some point, WAY before this kind of mess occurs again.

jennem said...

I knew there was sibling preference (or supposed to be) in terms of placing sibs in the SAME school. However, I don't see why sibs get preference for a slot OVERALL--meaning, there aren't enough seats to go around, and if you have an older sibling, you get one, but if you're the oldest in the family, you may not. How is that fair, or even legal? I thought that the point of sibling preference was to make life more convenient for parents, being able to bring both kids to one school, not to give sibs a free year of education that may be denied non-sibs simply on their being the oldest in their family. THAT is grounds for a class action suit right there. I'm all for sibling preference as to location, in the grades where everyone is guaranteed a place somewhere. But in Pre-K it shouldn't take effect until they have enough spots for everyone (By the way, my daughter is past Pre-K so this isn't personal. It's just absurd that the way the language was written, younger children in a family are guaranteed a slot and oldest children in a family have to wait to see what's left.)

Anonymous said...

12:53 said that "11:57 AM is correct in that no one is entitled to a pre-K seat (or K, for that matter), but we are ALL entitled to a FAIR CHANCE at getting the available seats."

Kids without an older sibling in school do not have a FAIR CHANCE. The way it is written right now, they only get an available seat AFTER all younger siblings are placed. The sword goes both ways here. There is this anger that people without sibs got a spot somewhere, and people with sibs got no if one category is more deserving of free Pre-K than another. Sibling preference was intended for convenience of location, not for giving more rights to one category of child.

Anonymous said...

Well said 2:16
- Mother of a child who got a spot with an older sibling.

It's not a level playing field anymore, and I am so sick of the sense of entitlement everyone feels. Get over it, you didn't get in, guess what there's always next year! Sour grapes anyone??

Anonymous said...

I agree, 10:06.

The way the lottery was handled wasn't any less fair than the way the rules were written. When there aren't enough spots for everyone, why should an accident of geography, or of having older siblings, make you better than anyone else?

One way or another, kids were going to be left without spots. Kids who were all 100% equally deserving of spots. If you argue and argue for your "right," then you'll be taking a spot from someone else with the exact same right to an education.

Go private or move on. Spend your energy on fighting for enough seats for everyone, not in trying to prove your kid has more right than someone else. Yeah, I had to pinch and struggle to pay for private PreK last year, but I accept that the city doesn't owe me a darn thing until 1st grade.

I say they should have 1 lottery, early in the year, that is for the right to a slot only (without saying for which school). Then they can have a second round within that lucky group, that takes in account sibling preference and zoning.

Meantime, buck up and realize your kid doesn't deserve more than anyone else's kid. I'm really sorry you didn't get lucky this year, but no sorrier for those without the right sibs or zoning who didn't get a slot.

Anonymous said...

The key part about siblings being together is keeping families at the same school. That results in more parental invovlement at the school, which educators across the board believe is a key factor in helping to make a school great (from parents helping in the bake sales to PTA money to school committees, etc.) Parents who are split between schools will likely participate less actively in each! So families together is a key cornerstone of a decent educational policy, not just for convenience or caprice.

That said, totally agree that there needs to be more pre-K slots. The educrats also all believe in the importance of early childhood education. Parents agree - if we all want this in NYC, we need to have it offered and need to figure out a way to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

To June 2 8:13 ---

I'm a parent of a rejected Pre-K'er with a an older sibling. I agree that the system is flawed, and there needs to be more seats to service a growing number of children applying to Pre-K every year. The rules are not fair, not fairer than any other application system that the DOE has established so far (middle school, high school). We all have a right to a fair chance at a Pre-K seat for our young ones.
Nevertheless, if the DOE stipulates certain rules, and we do everything to follow, the DOE should correct their mistakes instead of sitting on their hands. I think what part the outcry is about is that if they mess up so terribly and we sit idly by and watch and say nothing, it makes it easier for other institutions to make even bigger mistakes and get away with murder.
They made up rules and guidelines for this year's admissions process (and you know they will change next year, as they always do, to someone else's benefit), we followed, they messed up badly all over the city, and nothing is being done!
And believe me when I tell you there are many parents out there with wrongfully rejected Pre-K applicants who don't have a voice, or someone to speak up for them, because of language barriers, who are intimidated by the system and by making numerous phone calls to OSEPO. Who is going to speak up for them? Are they just going to disappear? Is that most convenient for everybody??

If a huge and embarrassing mistake has been made, as in this case, then the DOE needs step up and do something, and we, the parents, need to speak up and NOT suck it up!! The rules were set by the DOE - we play after them nicely. They don't follow their own rules -- we don't wan to take it lying down!

TrudiRose said...

I don't have pre-k age kids anymore (I'm in the group that's waiting forever until the end of time for middle school notification), but I've been reading about this whole fiasco with utter disbelief. I just want to extend totally sympathy for everyone being screwed by this pre-k process. A mere four years ago, when my daughter was entering pre-k, none of this was going on. We went to our zoned school, brought the child and proof that we lived in the zone, and that was it - we had our spot. Three years before that, when my son went through the process, same thing.

This year I thought it was insane that my son had to go through an exhausting and competitive process just to get a middle school placement. But now, to hear that it's even worse at the PRE-K level??? People have to fight for slots in their own zoned school? What is going ON at the DOE???

Good luck to everyone (wish I could pass out Tylenol to all, I'm sure you need it!)