Registration: What’s the big deal (part 3)

Continuing from previous posts (1 & 2).

Just to reiterate, the title of this series is not meant to condescend at all. Rather, it is a look from the ground-up about this mystifying registration process. And actually, I could almost conclude this post with the simple statement that Registration has become overly complex for no good reason.

What if Registration was merely putting schools (all 11 of them) in order of preference, with the distinct and clear explanation that if they do not get into one school, the computer will try the next one. No mention of proximity, no mention of priority, no mention “choice”. I would chop off the last “R” from Review, Rank and Request. Or combine them into one. They see all 11 schools, look at them on a map, see a summary of what each school has to offer, maybe see pictures, have a chance to visit them, go to a display like the ones at the current community forums…. they do whatever review satisfies them, than fill out a sheet that orders all the schools (online, on a smartphone, at the FIC, or just call somebody up). If they want to see more data, then you can open up the can of worms and unload. But until they get to that point, Keep It Simple, Silly.

In light of keeping it simple, I would actually urge for one exception on the Administrative side; put as much online as possible. Put Edulog (the program that displays how far the bus goes from the pickup nearest your house to any said school) online. Generate maps so people can see their house in relation to the schools.

One further thing; actually simplify the algorithms behind student/school assignment. I contend we do not need the services of EnrollEdu (Dr. Alves) – the 3rd-party neutrality he represents is boiled down to a computer. We have lots of computers here. What he uses for “fair” and “equitable” Low SES calculations, while with good intent, are inherently flawed because they make assumptions. For the sake of discussion, I publicly wonder if merely using “free/reduced lunch” status is enough of a consideration. If you think I am being callous or have no regard for others not like myself, then let’s talk – I want to hear from you.

While I do want to delve deeper on that last topic, I digress from my main point. Make Registration as painless and as user-friendly as possible. Do this by:

  • get rid of keywords like “proximity”, “priority” and “choice”; encourage parents to put all 11 schools in some sort of order
  • continue on the path with helpful videos; generate maps and a brochure that quickly summarizes all schools
  • put stuff online (ie, edulog or whatever replacement comes down the pike)
  • emphasize that all the schools are really good – the Magnet program is a great start, but have to show how not everything revolves around AYP to help bolster “underchosen” schools (and don’t use that word 🙂 )

That last point may be the most important. I think we might make much ado about relative molehills. While I have a lot of constructive criticism for the Administration, my one suggestion to parents is to take a chill pill. Yes, definitely choosing the right school is a huge deal and a big responsibility. I am on the same page – I have been there. But it ain’t the end of the world. If you are unhappy with a school, then transfer. Or better yet, get involved and work for change. 🙂 What an awesome role-model for your little one. And you know what’s really cool? Parents are already doing that! I love it.

9 Responses to “Registration: What’s the big deal (part 3)”

  1. pattsi petrie Says:

    The operational word is control. Think about this.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    In terms of who has it or who needs it? You would probably say “both”; the former is obvious (and it ain’t the parents). The latter…. I would wager it needs to be a cooperation between the parent and the school district. The district determines hard numbers like how many seats are available and of which program. The parent probably needs to feel (and is entitled to) responsibility for their child.

    So now that I think about this, I am not seeing why control needs to be the operative word.

  3. pattsi petrie Says:

    The reason that I choose “control” as the operational word has to do with foundational research related to complexity and lack of transparency. When the question, why is a system so difficult for anyone to use and why is it so difficult to get information to understand a system, is put to the test, a major variable is control–in that the entity that structures the complex system does so with an intent to make it so difficulty and time consuming to use that populations, especially with limited discretionary time, just drop by the wayside. Let us consider social support programs–right now in the news based on Gingrich’s numbers the people using food stamps has increased by a large percentage. FactCheck agrees that the percentage increase is very large. On the other hand, the number of individuals not taking advantage of the program are also large. Why do not these people obtain something for which they are eligible? Probably a number of reasons, one of which is difficulty to do so.

  4. papa@home Says:

    What you are suggesting though, is no attempt at balancing schools in any way. While we aren’t under any consent decree that says we have to, we have to. You are essentially suggesting the district have no voice whatsoever in the composition of the schools. Given how segregated the housing is in town, it doesn’t seem that Champaign is ready for that.

  5. charlesdschultz Says:

    Chuck, which point in particular are you responding to?

    Pattsi, there are lots of bad examples we could use from the American Government. Let us pick on the Tax Code. I do not believe the intent of the authors (all two gajillion of them) was to make it so complex that people just gave up and filled in whatever boxes they felt like. Rather, I see it more like decades upon decades of duct tape, bandaids and rubber cement; a conglomeration of short-term patches that inevitably give rise to loopholes (some of which are most likely intentional) and a general miasma of misery. All those pork barrels really add up.

    With my cynic’s hat firmly resting on my head, I would observe that many large systems have an increasing entropy of complexity (just like this sentence). In fact, there is such a large degree of correlation between size and complexity I am bound to consider them equivalent. Show me a large software company that only does one thing. Show me a government (any!) that operates efficiently.

    Bringing all this back to registration, I feel that it (the registration process) has become overly complex due to a lack of critical thinking, a systemic laziness. What evidence is there that the intention of “control” is to beat up the little guys? Rather, I see that Unit 4 officials follow, what is for them, the least path of resistance; do what you always do and patch it up here and there. It is entirely another thing to start from scratch – that takes a lot of work, effort, determination, leadership and commitment. And cooperation. So in my mind the big question is “At what point is it worth the cost of going back to the drawing board?” Are we at that point?

  6. pattsi petrie Says:

    Charles, I appreciate your perspective and premise. That said I see this as a useful excuse, on the whole. To your example of the tax code–the fear of revamping the code most is controlled by the fear of losing exemptions, hard fought for, not improving the code that just might yield more tax dollars. Better people than you and I have studies the code, written extensively about the code, created inches of documentation for changing the code, and yet nothing proceeds to do so. To your issue of when is it appropriate to put forth time, cost, and thought to improve whatever complex system has gotten so bad that revamping is the only answer. Using the school assignment example, there are direct and indirect costs related to what evolved to what presently exists. Everything I see, read, and hear, the point of diminishing returns was reached a long time ago related to indirect costs, meaning all of the angst and time that parents must expend to understand and then implement their understanding so their children can attend a Champaign school. Let me use a county exam–the county web site. It is absolutely correct that the county works tremendously hard to be transparent, putting all public domain documents on the web site. The issue is can the public access them easily, let alone at all. The response is really “no.” Try looking for a county resolution or ordinance–these are on the county clerk’s web site. One needs to know the number thereof to find the document. I have pointed these difficulties out to the county staff to no avail. They understand how to find items. That is the important aspect, not the general public. My question is why is it not important to design the county web site to be user friendly for everyone?

  7. Papaathome Says:

    The way I read your proposal is to completely remove any other consideration than what the parents want. First choice, not available, next, not available, etc. It reads an awful lot like first come, first served.:
    “What if Registration was merely putting schools (all 11 of them) in order of preference, with the distinct and clear explanation that if they do not get into one school, the computer will try the next one. No mention of proximity, no mention of priority, no mention “choice”. “

  8. pattsi petrie Says:

    Papaathome–obviously, I did not convey clearly my argument. I am clearly for working toward school assignment equity through many different means, but that is a whole other thread. My point has been that there is no need to make any system overly complex and obscure where the public is involved. If one is working with research buddies, then my comments fade.

  9. The Dilemma of Controlled Choice – community dialog requested « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] 27 January 2012 – Part III: more suggestions (similar), recommendations for the “Choice” forums […]

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