This year was confusing from start to finish. We couldn't schedule tours in the fall, then -- suddenly -- we could! Parents who got the information somehow signed up, others found themselves shut out, only to have tours open again in December in January.
The deadlines for notification kept changing as well, leaving kids and parents on edge for way too long. Last week, in one Brooklyn school where the kids were becoming unbearably antsy, the school just typed up their own letter from the list they got from the DOE and handed them out in class -- not the best strategy for kids who got disappointing news.
Imagine telling your 10 or 11-year-old child, who for months has been waiting to hear from one of the five carefully chosen middle schools they selected after endless touring, that they did not get into ANY of them.
That has happened to several families I know in Manhattan, and it's an issue in Brooklyn as well, with children being assigned to middle schools that they did not apply to -- or left without a middle school altogether, and directed to a second admissions round.
Are these kids with troubled records or academic difficulties? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In the cases I'm aware of, these are great kids, with solid test scores and the kinds of families who organize special events and field trips, volunteer endlessly and make it clear in everything they say and do that they support public education in New York City.
There are no pat answers or explanations either, because no one knows with much certainty how decisions were made, especially for the highly valued ones that are overwhelmed with applications.
It is not okay to simply accept that in any choice-based process, some children will get left out. That is not an outcome that we must simply live with. It's too early to say how the appeals process will work in these cases, but in the meantime kids and families are suffering unecessary anxiety and pain.
It is not okay to promise answers by early May, and deliver them six weeks later with no explanation at all. If Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's idea was to equalize the process, where is he now with the explanation, the apology and a plan to fix the problems?
The fault lies in the idea that the DOE decided at some point to "centralize,'' both pre-k and middle school choice this year, perhaps to make life easier for administrators. That's the only explanation I've seen in the New York Times last week.
The New York Daily News has also tried to get answers: The explanation? First time the DOE had coordinated the processes in different districts.
That's not good enough. And it simply doesn't resonate with kids and families who are spending this month trying to get answers -- and trying to reassure their children that indeed, everything will work out, when they really can't say those words with much confidence.
Two years ago when my older son went through middle school choice and the district was in charge, the tours ran on time, notification came by April and questions asked were answered.
Let's get some answers now.