Registration 2014

welcome_to_kindergartenThe infamous “Kindergarten Lottery” has been in full swing, having started a couple months early this year (January as opposed to March). Aside from policy changes and a new Kindergarten program (Dual-language immersion housed at the revolving door school building on Kirby), I learned a couple things from Stephanie Stuart today.

First, she played a major role in curating a bunch of relevant information and teaming up with a graphic designer to produce a “Welcome to Kindergarten” booklet. The booklet does a really good job of explaining the complexity of Schools of Choice, why we have it, how it works and even has a little lexicon for icons used on the registration form and the jargon used in the Policy. It also includes a list of frequently asked questions (with requisite answers, of course *grin*), and a two-page spread that introduces and highlights each of the 12 elementary school choices. And the very end, the Policy of Controlled Choice is laid out in 6 pages. Overall, the booklet is 42 pages – a little meaty, but it is packed. I am anxious to hear what other parents think of it.

Secondly, I feel like a buffoon for having missed this, but parents this year will not be using an online registration program at all. Last year, the District debuted  a program from Dr. Alves that was problematic, but it got the job done. This year, the District contracted with Codagami, and apparently the contract called to replace only the internal part of the tool, such that Unit 4 staff will utilize the new program. Parents are dialing back to 2012 and having to fill out forms which they submit to the Family Information Center. The current form does not appear to have any of the helpful icons from the booklet, so I am a little confused as to whether the form listed on unit4registration website is really the same form parents are filling out or not.

As stated on the Unit 4 webpage, here are some dates for those wishing to attend a scheduled information event:

  • February 27th, 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.: Tours at all elementary schools
  • March 3, 6:00 pm: Schools of Choice Community Forum at Stratton Elementary School
  • March 5, 8-9 a.m. & 12-1 p.m.: Informational Choice Chat at the Family Information Center
  • March 6, 5-6 p.m.: Informational Choice Chat at the Family Information Center
  • March 11, 8-9 a.m. & 12-1 p.m.: Informational Choice Chat at the Family Information Center

UPDATE: Please use the Proximity App, not the old WebQuery tool.

In an interesting little twist, the district’s web version of “EduLog” (a program that tells the distance from a given address to all schools, sorted by proximity) called “WebQuery” even includes St. Matt’s and Prairie Elementary. 🙂

edulog_sample

Questions posed to the Board

Over the past few months, I have come up with a few questions about various things with regards to Unit 4 and have been unable to find an answer.
1. I am curious, what does Unit 4 do with Illinois Youth Survey (IYS) responses? This is more of a personal curiosity for me; I don’t think the IYS responses should be public, but I am curious how the response are used by the district and how they inform future decisions.
2. In the timeline provided by Codagami in their RFP response, they collected “user stories” by November 27th. Is Unit 4 at liberty to share those stories? Or can you provide some sense of what “users” have said? Will this information trickle down to the Choice Committee at some point?
3. I have been looking through the RPC presentations (in the context of the Central site), and it is not clear to me that a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) has been performed for the sites north of I-74. Curious, do you know if such analysis has been done for the new site? Can the results be shared?
4. I was able to find a PDF that described the current high school attendance boundaries, but I was not able to find a map (I tend to be more of a visual person):

Do you know if a map exists? Or maybe I should ask, can such a map be made public? To reiterate, I am looking for a map of the current high school attendance boundaries. I realize that the district is making plans for redistricting in the near future and thus there are not solid plans for new boundaries yet. Although a ball-park estimate might be helpful. 🙂

 

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As an aside, I generated my own map – it looks really rough because, well, it is. 🙂 I am no ArcGIS professional. But at least it helps me get a sense for where the boundaries are. I used the list of streets from the aforementioned attendance boundaries pdf – note that I left some streets off the color-coded section, since this is just a rough hack job. It is not meant to be authoritative nor comprehensive.

ChampaignCurrentHighSchoolDistricts

Kindergarten registration now open

A new thing this year is that registration for Kindergarten school assignment is open two months early. Keep in mind, the online software from Codagami is not yet available – basically, parents are invited to start researching the schools, visit the Family Information Center, and fill out registration forms in person if they so wish. The results will still be posted sometime in April, and there are no “early bird” points.

Another new thing is that the language has changed such that families are encouraged to rank all 12 Kindergarten options (including the newly announced Spanish-English dual-language immersion program at the Kirby Street school). The sole purpose of this language change is to reduce the number of parents who end up “unassinged” at the end of the registration period. The downside is that some parents might be more stressed and more confused (“Do I have to rank all 12 options?”; “What if I only rank 3?”; “Is the Magnent School Registration still concurrent, and if so, what if I mark a magnet school as my 5th choice?”; etc). The bottom line is that if a parent only “chooses” popular schools, their chances of being unassigned is above zero percent (maybe only 1%). If a parent “chooses” more than seven schools, the chance of being unassigned drops to a fractional number, and if they rank all 12 options, they are guaranteed to be assigned to one of them. (Just straight up logic and common sense there *grin*)

http://www.champaignschools.org/news-room/article/6446

Starting January 2, 2014, families with incoming kindergarten students residing in the Champaign Unit #4 School District may register for the 2014-2015 school year and rank their elementary school preferences in the Schools of Choice process.

Families should register during the designated period that runs from January 2-March 31, 2014 to increase chances of placement into one of their preferred schools. Students must turn five on or before September 1, 2014 to register. Families will need to visit the Champaign Schools Family Information Center (1103 N. Neil Street) to register and will be asked to provide a birth certificate and proof of residency at the time of registration.

This year, families will be advised to rank all elementary school choices in the Schools of Choice process. In addition to the 11 elementary school options, families will also have access to a 12th option, theSpanish-English Dual Language Two-Way Immersion Program that will begin next school year with kindergarten students at the  1605 W. Kirby Avenue school location.

A number of community forums and tour dates will be held during the registration period to allow families the opportunity to visit schools and have them questions answered by the Schools of Choice specialists.

For more information on registration, Schools of Choice, community forums, tour dates, and hours of operation, please visit www.unit4registration.org.

Families may also contact the Family Information Center:

1103 N. Neil Street

Champaign, IL 61820

217-351-3701

Codagami's RFP response is now online

re: http://www.champaignschools.org/sites/default/files/finance/BidsRFPs/201312/Choice%20Student%20Assignment%20Proposal%20-%20Codagami.pdf

A good bit of details on what they plan to do, including a proposed timeline. I’ll be reading and commenting more later.

UPDATE: Some background on why I posted this.

Since about 2002 or so, the District had contracted with Dr. Michael Alves and his “Educational Consultants Group” to conduct school assignment for all children entering the schools, most widely known in supporting the District’s “Schools of Choice” program which grew out of the Consent Decree. Most parents experienced the “Kindergarten Lottery”, although some came into contact with the program as a transfer student. Basically, the district conducted a “registration period” in March with paper forms which were them typed into electronic media and sent to Dr. Alves so he could run his program, sort students into various schools, and analyze the results. More recently, the program become more and more electronic, up until the point last year when AECG debuted an online form for parents, including a so-called “dashboard” that garnered mixed emotions. (Disclosure: Since 2009 I have submitted FOIA requests for the outputs of Dr. Alves’ program, and last year was the first year I was denied; I followed up by requesting that the Attorney General’s Office on Open Government Public Access Bureau review the case, which is currently pending).

In 2012, the District put out an RFP for the school assignment program (aka, “Controlled Choice Student Assignment Plan”). No local vendors touched the Choice RFP at the time, and AECG was the only candidate considered for the one-year contract. After that contract expired in 2013, Unit 4 put out another RFP. At least one local vendor and possibly AECG responded to the first 2013 Choice RFP. After languishing for a little while, Unit 4 re-issued the Choice RFP on October 23rd. Again, an extremely small number of vendors responded, Codagami being one of them.

At the last regular Board meeting (Nov 18th), Dr. Zola disclosed that the district has spent over a million dollars (averaging roughly $100,000 per year) to AECG, and that with the transition to Codagami, we would pay one more year at the near $100,000 price, but this time we own the software. A few community representatives (most notably those from the Ministerial Alliance) conveyed their concerns that the district was moving away from using AECG. While on the one hand I quite understand their worry about going back to pre-Consent Decree days, I believe those particular worries are unfounded. None the less, it is something to keep on the discussion table.

In reading the Codagami response/proposal, I am excited to travel with them on this experience. For a brief overview, here is the Proposed Schedule (which I am reproducing on my own, since the original cannot be easily copied and pasted – hence I own my mistakes):

November 20, 2013:    Project Kickoff with Unit 4 project leaders.
November 27, 2013:    System requirements and user story documentation completed.
December 11, 2013:    Mockups finalized and approved by key stakeholders.
January 29, 2013:    Development completed.
February 21, 2013:    User acceptance testing completed.
February 28, 2013:    Training completed and project ready for use.

 

UPDATE: Here is the original electronic copy

Nov 18th BOE Meeting agenda is finally posted

Lots of interesting things in here. I’ll hit a few highlights that stand out to me, but you should read it for yourself:

http://www.boarddocs.com/il/champil/Board.nsf/public

 

  • Lot’s of Recognitions
  • Spotlight video on “building a high quality staff” – not yet on Vimeo so I can’t preview it
  • Newly hired high school site selection consultants Gorski/Reifsteck will give their schtick – no presentation available via boarddocs
  • District report card – only Bottenfield and South Side made AYP
  • Three high school students being recognized as Student Abassadors – interesting program, and I have a number of outstanding questions to Joe Williams about it
  • Local software company Codagami won the RFP bid for doing the Controlled Choice program to the tune of $98,500. No word on the actual contract, yet.
  • Other Misc items including a number of things about finances (change orders, Tax levy, grants, donations, etc).

 

Curious if anyone even cares about the Choice Policy anymore. 🙂 I mean, I do, but I have not heard much back from readers at all, yet. The final draft is going in the Consent Agenda (meaning, along with ten other items, it gets voted on in bulk). They threw in the fact that Choice program will also assign students for middle schools, and I take that to mean middle school students who are not matriculating from a fifth-grade Unit 4 school (otherwise they would follow the feeder program).

 

Lastly, I have asked for and am still waiting to see the RFP concerning the high school site selection consultant.