Another crack in the school lottery* system

I was developing some examples for a new page and I came across a very interesting case in the 2011 Kindergarten Selection program. Two “low ses” parents chose Garden Hills as their 2nd choice school but were not only denied their choice, but then went on to be unassigned to any school. Here’s the kicker; aside from the fact that two “non low ses” parents chose Garden Hills as their 3rd choice and got it, 5 seats were still open at the end of the day.

I understand the policies that dictated this situation; Unit 4 has a maximum capacity for various classes (slicing up our society in a couple different ways), and those limits came to bear on the two unlucky “low ses” families. I can kinda understand that if you let one (or two) folk slip in via an exception, it sets a precedence. In theory.

But I feel bad that these two families got through the choice period with no assigned school! To add insult to injury, one of the two filled out all 5 choices, just like they were supposed to, making good (imo) choices! Keep in mind they are “low ses” – couldn’t get into any of the 5 choices. Why did this have to happen? 

One very easy way to remedy that particular situation is simply to allow a parent to rank order ALL elementary schools. I have been saying this for at least 2 years now. Why limit them to 5? Because it is too confusing? People are still going to only choose a couple if they so desire (that happens now). In the meantime (since 2012 will still only have 5 choices), what about assigning a child to any available school, even if it was not chosen? The sense I get from parents is that it is a horrible feeling to have fallen through the system with no assignement whatsoever. Again, I understand the FIC does this on purpose, to get the family to come in so they can talk on the phone or face-to-face. Is it worth it?

The new page I am working on will show what chance you would have had given the choices you make now. So for example, if you give me your address and your top 5 picks, I’ll tell you what chance you had to get into each of your choices. I want this to be programmatic – otherwise, it is a bit of work on my part. 🙂 While working on this, I noticed the above-stated anomaly for the 2011 data and it looked like parents had a 0% chance to get into Garden Hills if it was their 2nd choice. And I knew that was not accurate, so I had to look deeper. I am not sure I can account for SES – or rather, I don’t think it would be wise for me to start asking those questions on my example page that is supposed to be really simple to use. Have to think about that….

*lottery: Yes, I know the FIC doesn’t like to use that term.

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3 Responses to “Another crack in the school lottery* system”

  1. Julie Says:

    Very excited to hear about this new page you’re working on. As someone who will likely be going through the process next year at this time, this would be awesome to have for the 2012 data.

  2. charlesdschultz Says:

    Julie, since you are the first to say something, let me ask you – what would you want to see in such a tool? How much information do you want to input? How accurate do you want the results to be?

    If I ignore SES, I can paint a very general picture that holds true most of the time. But I don’t want to mislead anyone, and I really don’t want anyone quoting numbers (“But you said I had a 63% chance of getting into Bottenfield!!”). My real goal is to help show how choosing the 5 most “overchosen” schools are not the best idea. Also my goal is to provide a working example that shows a “what if” game, to help the user get a feel for what is involved.

    I am torn, to be honest. I want Unit 4 to simplify this thing as much as possible, so it is a struggle for me to justify providing low-level details and fancy-dancy tools if that only makes the whole enchilada seem more confusing. 🙂

    But what do you think?

  3. Julie Says:

    I would be willing to input as much information as needed to get accurate results (address, income, level of education, etc.). I completely get what you’re saying about the trickiness of factoring in the SES, though. I would like to use the tool to figure out the best way to list the schools that I both like and think I have a chance of getting into–I like your term of the “What if” game, because that’s exactly what I’d be using it for. After touring and talking with folks at my proximity B school (we have no proximity A school), I am not a fan of it, so my interest in this tool is to figure out how I can make the most of my picks, knowing that I will have no proximity going for me in the selection process.


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