Thursday, June 26

Admissions petition: Parents speak

If you can't make the rally this afternoon at City Hall (and even if you plan to attend), have a look at this parent-organized petition, asking the DOE to reconsider centralized Kindergarten admissions.

Parents of preschoolers, this policy has the potential to directly affect your family's admissions experience.

Even if your kids are past K, consider adding your name. No one should have to go through the confusion that characterized this year's process.


Anonymous said...

Granted, the DOE screwed up a little this year but don't you want to give them a chance? I cannot think of any disadvantages of a centralized process. Let the DOE work it out and in a couple of years we'll have a city with a kick-ass school admission process.

Anonymous said...

Some of us have kids THIS YEAR (pre-K) and NEXT YEAR (K) that this is affecting, so we DO NOT have a "couple years" to work things out. We need things to work well and correctly NOW.

gingerbrownie said...

I had kids applying to PreK and K this year and while the DOE completely botched our PreK placement, enduring the absolutely disconnected K experience was phenomenally worse. There are quite valid reasons for centralization -- all of which I experienced trying to get into a school from out of district in what I had been told was the last year the principals' would have such discretion: favoritism, misinformation, limited communication about policy to front lines (principals, parent coordinators, family advocates, community education councils).

Administered properly, there is no reasons centralization (with provision for exceptions) should not work!

What we do need now is accountability & transparency in the form of public forums where parents, school staff, and DOE employees can discuss proposed changes & be o the same page as to how new policies will be interpreted and how process will occur.

What we need is access to the DOE -- COMMUNICATION!

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the above two responses. I think that centralization is a step in the right direction. Only a few years ago, getting into great K programs was largely a matter of who you knew, strings you could pull, some sort of "in" with the principal, etc. I know that this year's processes were horrendous, and I do find it hard to hope that the DOE will get it together in time for next year, but I would hate to go back to the nepotism and favoritism that once ruled the day.

helen said...

Stronger communication would have gone a long way in tamping down the admissions furor this year; Chancellor Klein is committed to the centralized process, which does nip nepotism/system-gaming in favor of greater equity. But all the good intentions in the world mean zip if parents can't get a live human being on the phone, or if they get conflicting information when they finally do. Better communication and greater access to the powers that be would improve the process immeasurably.

Anonymous said...

I live in District 13. 2 years ago, when we were applying for K for my child--mostly in D15 schools (then known as Region 8)--we applied to many places, most of which are considered desirable lottery and magnet schools. We eventually got into almost all of them--not immediately, to be sure, as we were waitlisted for some but we got in as the summer progressed.

This was our first child. We had no connections, strings to pull, etc.--so unless we were extremely lucky, it would seem that nepotism is not as widespread a problem as the detracting comments above would suggest.

At the end of the game, we were left with several choices to choose from. Contrast that to this year (and what is proposed for next). Even overlooking the screwups--and I still think the DOE's refusal to own up to mistakes and apologize is arrogantly disrespectful to its constituents--centralization would never give parents this kind of option. Instead you would be left weighing such factors as picking a "safe" school over the one that actually matches your educational philosophy. (B/c even the "safe" school may be gone if you didn't rank it high enough.)

Why should parents have to do this complicated weighing of factors, agonizing over whether to rank school A #1 and B #2 and vice versa? Why not be able to do what we do for college? Apply to a bunch and then decide between those that accept us? (It also jeopardizes a wide and diverse pool for lottery schools, as folks may be afraid to put them first since they will never be as "safe" as a zoned school--and creative use of addresses for desirable zoned schools will probably increase as well...)

Does that mean the old way was perfect? No, and the petition acknowledges that by saying that the DOE should establish guidelines for school-based admissions. (To continue the college analogy, this would be like how many colleges now use a standard application and synchronize notification.) These guidelines would ensure the end of such practices as camping out in line for a first-come, first-served spot.

The other big problem that centralization presents is the one alluded to by the petition's reference to under-enrollment for BedStuy preK spots. Parents who aren't out there reading blogs and listservs are less likely to fill out these applications. For language and literacy reasons, a system which is totally reliant on the printed word--where there is no interface with a staffperson at a local school--is truly troubling. (It is less so for secondary schools b/c staff from the child's current school could help with the application process.)

Please sign the petition!

gingerbrownie said...

D 13 here, too, trying to get into D 15 for K this year. This year is the very different than 2 years ago. Baby boom has made it that many more kids are looking for less spots. I have played the same game this year & so far nothing but WLs. And three of those schools would not tell me where my child stood on WL. My best bet now is to wait until school starts & there is more movement. Centralization or an up-front lottery for open spots (a la D3) would have resolved this last spring.

Centralization could exclude the current lottery schools from the list. You could always put your fave school first & you would have a good sense of where you stood based on clear criteria. The entry rules would not need to change unless you are suggesting opening up districts lines.

This apparent conflict is not really about centralization v. school-based enrollment, but the fact that next year's DOE criteria will make it impossible for a D 13 to get a spot at a desirable D 15 school -- I think that it the contentious issue! Is it putting a moat around the good schools and/or will it force D 13 kids to go to their own schools & thereby improve them. But once those schools are "good" then it will all be about real estate. If you can't afford it, you are out. Enforcing zoning may bring on segregration in many transitional neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

3:57 here again.


Don't despair; it's only June. I'm not sure that there were so many slots when we applied--at one school (that we didn't get into) we were #101 on the waiting list! We got in off the (other) waitlists as the summer progressed. And, yes, children did start in my daughter's kindergarten in the first few weeks of school as well.

Finally, your point about zones and real estate is well taken. Which is why the only reason I think centralization would ever work is if, like with high schools, you essentially get rid of zones. As is, the ability to buy into the zone of a good school is a far more powerful (and legal) lever to get into a prized school than any alleged nepotism for principal's discretion. Elimination of zones will never happen though, so go sign the petition--which does ask that lottery schools be excluded should centralization be maintained...

Bronx_shrink said...

I think there are ways that DOE could standardize the process without centralizing admissions. They could set uniform deadlines for application (Dec?) and notification (early spring) and then each school could receive the names of every child whose parent listed that school. And then each school would use the priority criteria set by the DOE to admit students and then wait list a reasonable number after that. That would prevent problems such as what happened this year.

For example, families would receive notice that their child was admitted to PS 1, 2 and 4 but not 5 or 3. They select by a set date and that school is now free to notify wait listed child #1, etc. High school admissions in NYC used to be like that until a few years ago. 8th graders would receive a list of the schools that accepted them, they could then choose among them. Freed spots would be offered in a round 2 admissions. Kids and parents could make better choices then, at least it seemed so as an outside observer.

Also, lottery and selective schools should absolutely be left off the list of available programs. What's the point of ranking a school that selects their own students? That's what potentially cost my child a pre-k spot.

And I did sign the petition and passed it on to everyone I could!

Anonymous said...

We had a combination of hard, hard work, and luck, in getting dd into the school of our choice. While I'm in favor of the process being fair to everyone, I don't think it should be equal for those parents who are willing to put in the time, research, effort, etc...and those who aren't and just get lucky.

Bronx_shrink said...

To 8:54, as a parent who empathizes with the hard work that goes into securing a solid school placement for their child, I don't think that parents who don't put in the same time and effort should be penalized or handicapped.

I've worked with families where there may be a single parent who works at a restaurant or factory and gets no paid time off. They may be fired if they miss too many days, despite the fact that they may be working 12 hours daily! That parent may not have the time or resources to go on tours, go to open houses, make calls and internet searches. But does that mean their child shouldn't have an equal shot at a high quality education? The process should not be so unwieldy as to be unfair to those who either don't have the time or the savvy to research and hustle.

Anonymous said...

It's a different kind of favoritism, toward parents who have the flexibility to juggle their work obligations, and the drive to sleuth out good school options for their kids. Parents working two jobs can't go to school fairs or open-house tours; people who don't speak English or are here without papers often avoid anything remotely official, like school events. Reaching every family in an equal and adequate way is the ideal, but it's doubtful that it can be reached.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the fact that so many district 13 parents seeks spots in district 15 is why DOE feels compelled to level the playing field. Imagine if those families invested in PS 9, P 11, PS 282 and PS 20?

Anonymous said...

It's a tough call; everyone wants to improve the schools, but few will volunteer their own kids for the improvement process -- and who can blame them? Kids who spend only three years in middle school, and whose high school placement is largely determined by 7th grade test scores, shouldn't have to compromise their education to make a weak area school stronger...

lizinbrooklyn said...

Hi All,

So far we have 532 signatures on the petition. Thanks to all of you who signed it. The bulk of our signatures are from Brooklyn. Please pass the link below on to folks in other boroughs so that we show the DOE this is a citywide problem.

bronx_shrink - please email me. I'd like to hear more about your story. You can click on my name at the bottom of the petition and send me an email.



Anonymous said...

I fail to see any way this centalized process is a benefit to anyone trying to send their children to a school they are not zoned for. My zoned elementary school does not have a pre-k, but the next closest (and a very good school) does have a pre-k program. With my oldest daughter I simply went to the school and signed her up-no problems at all. I was not so fortunate with my youngest daughter who had to be put through this centralized process. I filled out the application as early as possible and sent it in-and still did not receieve a spot in that same school. I was very upset to have to enroll in my second choice which is farther from my house and I know nothing about. And even more upset when I see my first choice has listed openings on the second round of applications-ridiculous-now someone who did not follow the rules in the first place will get a spot over me. Now my second daughter will not be going to the same school as my first. And since people who get first and second choices are the people that actually live in the zone, or live in the district but don't have a zoned pre-k, I don't see how this would benefit someone trying to send their child out of district. Not to mention the letters to inform you of which school you got into came so late if you were unhappy with the school, most private programs were already full.