Kindergarten Assignment: Example 1

In light of Doretha’s insistence that this is not a lottery, I’ll try to stop using that word. But I am also against “choice”, so this “assignment” is the last neutral territory I can come up with.

I received an email from a mom who was concerned about her choices. I’ll not divulge too much information, but she has given me permission to relay the story here for learning purposes. She is considering Private school but wants to give Public school a shot if it will work out.

“We have no proximity A school, no siblings, and a high SES.  So, if I’m reading your blog and other info correctly, we really have a very limited “choice” of schools and realistically will have to choose between Kenwood, Garden Hills (our proximity B school), Stratton, Washington, and Dr. Howard. I’d be interested to know if you think that conclusion is correct. Would there be any use in making our first choice Westview, Robeson, or Southside, where the number of people who made it their first choice was below the actual number of seats available last year?”

After reading through the rest of the email and commenting on the subjective nature of perceptions, etc, the objective part of my response was as follows:

You already have a good grip on how the cards are stacked. Last year, if you put Westview or Robeson as your first choice, you would have gotten it. Will that happen again this year? Probably. South Side was chosen by 48 people as a First Choice and only 46 seats were available. With more people choosing Carrie Busey as a First Choice (probably – its a brand new school), South Side might have some First Choice slots open. Keep in mind that the odds last year were pretty darn good – only 3 out of 48 did not get their First Choice for South Side. (I know, you are thinking “Wait, 48-46 = 2, not 3!” It turns out that one other Proximity A parent was denied because of the reserve for Proximity B parents). However, your chance of getting Westview or Robeson as a 2nd Choice are a little more grim; 6/52 [6 out of 52] Robeson 2nd Choices were fulfilled and 8/74 [8 out of 74] Westview 2nd Choices were fulfilled. Those are not betting numbers.
Bottom-line: If you makes you feel better, you have a pretty high chance of getting into Westview, Robeson or South Side if you make one of those your first choice. Again, we are talking about chances based on historical data. Keep in mind you will be wait-listed for your first choice as well.
Again, the purpose of this example is to show that the real numbers, even if only historical and not predictive, can play a role in this game. I used data from the online database that I maintain (which is open to everyone – even the query tool). Note that the concerned mother was slightly incorrect about First Choices concerning Westview and Robeson.
I kinda felt bad for parent’s last night at the Choice Forum. They literally swarmed to the front after everyone was dismissed – apparently, all the questions that had been asked during the session were not adequately answered. I didn’t think so, either.

3 Responses to “Kindergarten Assignment: Example 1”

  1. rt Says:

    I found this example really helpful to clarify the reality of this process in my mind. I have a couple more questions (as always):

    1) In looking at the 2010 data, Southside and Westview were overchosen on the first round. Was last year a fluke or is it more bc of the change with CB becoming more popular this past year? I know CB will change things so is it better to look at the 2011 data over the 2010 data?

    2) By the time the 2nd choice gets around, wouldn’t most people (if we believe the ~80% that get 1st choice) have already been placed into their first choices so the number that get their 2nd has better odds? I.E. for Robeson, how many of the 52 already got their first choice so the 6 doesn’t seem so grim?

    3) Do you have the numbers for 2nd and 3rd choices for each school? You cite 6/52 for Robeson so you must have that somewhere, right? Or did I just miss it in all of your research that you post?

    4) One can only be Prox A or Prox B but not both, right? If you put a school not in your Prox A area as your first choice you would be in a third category after Prox B- is that correct?

    Again, I really like your example- I think this post has been super helpful! I’d be open to any more examples you have!

  2. charlesdschultz Says:


    Thanks for the kind words. I myself really like these kinds of examples, so this is the language I try to speak. I know that the FIC is gearing up for some “examples” and video vignettes to help describe this thing for the next “Choice” Community Forum (Jan 26th), but my hope is somewhat tremulous. 🙂

    1. This is the downside of looking at numbers; we cannot say “why” something happened, only that it did. In a sense, it would be cool to interview every single parent and ask “why”, which might lead to some very interesting theories and perhaps maybe even some evidence on what specifically needs to be tweaked. Without that, we can only guess. Like you, my guess is that Carrie Busey is drawing more first choices (which is a fact). We also see the magnet schools are attracting choices as well (that is the whole purpose).

    2. Excellent point, I had not thought of that! Taking that into account, the picture changes drastically. 43 of the 52 people who put Robeson as 2nd got their first choice and therefore never “trickled down” to the 2nd choice. Of the 9 that were left, 6 were awarded their 2nd choice, leaving 3. So the odds are indeed much better, 6 out of 9.

    3. Yes, I do have all those numbers. I even have numbers for 4th and 5th choices in 2011. They are on the spreadsheet I make available for download, in addition to the online database I have made available.

    4. Correct, each parent is labelled as having either Proximity A to one school or Proximity B to one school. There was one anomaly where one parent did not have any Proximity, but I think it was more because of a typo in the address. The “third” category after Proximity B is “no priority”. Think of it this way; you get 5,000,000 points for Proximity A, 4,000,000 points for Proximity B and 0 points otherwise. Since Proximity only applies to your first choice, you get 0 points for all other choices, no matter what.

    Let me know if I can clarify anything else. Again, thank you for thinking through the Robeson example clearly and identifying a mistake I made. 🙂

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