Request for modification to Policy 705.09 "Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment"

email sent to the U4 Board Members and Dr. Zola:

Good morning, Board Members and Dr. Zola,

I know that there are many ongoing discussions about “Controlled Choice”, and I realize there is already a lot of work in progress with the intent of improving the system even further. To avoid getting lost in the “noise”, allow me to make this short and brief.

Please alter Policy 705.09 “Schools of Controlled Choice Seat Assignment” to include the following two pieces of information:
1. Any and all previously undocumented verbal directives used by the Family Information Center to determine school and waitlist placement. There never should be an instance where the FIC is following one set of rules that is not made public to the community. I recently learned of one such verbal directive in practice during the most recent school assignment process.
2. The clear and explicit details of how SES is calculated. This should not be a secret. It should also be consistent across the district, where “SES” in one context means the same in another context.
Thank you for your time and attention.

Wrapping up the March Registration

As of 8:20 am, the Unit registration “dashboard” showed that 534 parents had submitted applications and that the required paperwork had been processed – I suspect there are still a large number of parents who still need to file paperwork and/or wait for it to be processed. But still, with only one day left, it seems like a long way to go ’till we get to the expected 800 ballpark.


A reader has made the following comment:

“[The FIC]  said that they had contacted about 100 people who had registered at least partially online but have not been in to the FIC.  Some were not aware of the need to come in, others just hadn’t made it in yet, and others were purposefully waiting and watching the numbers to make their decision (I don’t know why when you can change your selections through the 28th).”


According to the dashboard this morning, only two slots are at or over capacity; the Garden Hills Bilingual program (20 out of 20) and Westview (56 out of 54). Which is a bit interesting, considering the history of Choice in the past (2012, 2011). Still, we have a few hundred more the district is expecting, which will dramatically change the existing picture. But …. only one day left*.


We will check back tomorrow to see what things look like.


* “one day left” is essentially only for “priority” selections; parents can still register and choose schools after March 28th, but they will effectively be placed on an ad hoc waiting list. Obviously, if the school is underchosen, the waiting list is empty. 🙂 My guess is that, if we assume the dashboard to be an accurate, real-time count (a HUGE assumption), then a ton of parents will be registering after March 28th and causing all kinds of fun for the FIC.

"What is Controlled Choice?"

It is interesting to watch the school district attempt to answer this question. Perhaps the biggest issue is attempting to communicate a concept that is for all intents and purposes totally foreign to most people, using loaded words like “choice” and “proximity” and “priority”. Another interesting thing is that there are SO MANY different attempts to explain choice, it’s quite crazy. For instance, the title of this blog post is taken from one of the hand-outs at the Community Forum tonight. However, I cannot find that hand-out on the Unit 4 website. Instead, I found 6 others of varying degrees of aesthetic appeal:


And you wonder why parents are confused. *grin*


I have blogged about these Choice Community Forums several times in past years (2010,  Jan 10 2012, Jan 26 2012). I am glad to see some small improvements like the FAQ (“What is Controlled Choice?”) – they capture some of the key questions, most of which were also asked tonight during Q&A. As I mentioned last year, the video is much better than the previous incarnations, but I still think we need another spokesperson to emcee. Dr. Zola got up at the end of the presentation time and did a great job of engaging the audience and basically putting on a show. I suggested to a few folks that Dr. Zola should kick off the entire thing. Even with these improvements, it is obvious to me that parents still struggle mightily with the concept of “Choice”, “proximity” and “priority”. The pro tip on the FAQ is killing me: “Let your priorities work for you!” What in the world does that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I know what it means; but a new parent?


So Read the rest of this entry »

I'll be at the Choice Community Forum tonight

The school district is holding their second community forum on the Choice process tonight at Carrie Busey in Savoy. I’ll be there – my goal is to observe how the community forum is being run, what information they share with new parents, and how parents react to the information. Maybe we will even get down to the nitty gritty details of numbers. 🙂


Tuesday, February 5, 2013 6:00 p.m. Carrie Busey Elementary – 304 Prairie Rose Lane – Savoy
(Parking lot is located on the east side of the building)

Updates on school assignment (aka, Choice, Kindergarten Lottery, etc)

I have been bugging Dr. Susan Zola a bit about the upcoming school registration, especially in regards to the little-known Choice Committee and the status of Dr. Alves’ work with the new software for school assignment. Amidst my many questions, I finally just decided to call the Family Information Center (FIC); I highly recommend calling the FIC, and moreover, ask for the “choice specialist”. She knows a bit.

So, some updates from Dr. Zola first. Alves is finishing up the new software and they are hoping to do some in-house trials next week. The new software interfaces with Edulog, thus allowing parents to get a pretty good idea exactly what their “Proximity” is, answering one of the most perplexing pieces of “Choice”. This is pretty exciting, for as small of a thing that it is. Also, I have requested to be made a part of the Choice Committee – crossing my fingers. 🙂

The Choice Specialist (Becky Loss (spelling?)) confirmed the Edulog work, but unfortunately it sounds like it will not be ready to demo for the Jan 24th Community Forum on Choice. So take note, if you plan to go to the Community Forums at all, they will talk about Proximity and busroutes and stuff, but you won’t be able to actually see the software yet. Hopefully by the next community forum (Feb 5th) it will be ready.

I also asked some specific questions about how Magnet school registration coincides with “normal” registration. Here is the low down. If you choose a magnet school(s) as your first choices, it will be processed in a special “Magnet registration” queue. The cool thing is that your first non-magnet school choice becomes your first choice in the non-magnet registration queue. I know that is confusing, so let me try a few examples.

Example 1

You really want to try for Bottenfield, BTW and Dr. Howard. Because BTW is a magnet school, you can choose BTW as your first choice and Bottenfield (which is typically rather difficult to get into) as your second choice. Due to the new rules, your Bottenfield choice becomes your First choice against everyone else if you don’t make it into BTW. But keep in mind, the chances of getting into BTW are extremely high, so keep that in mind.

Example 2

You try for Bottenfield and BTW and South Side, but this time you make Bottenfield your first choice and South Side your second choice. Because BTW is not listed first, it will not be processed in the magnet queue. Bottenfield will be your first choice and processed alongside everyone else. If you don’t get in on the first shot, you will be placed on the waitlist (with potentially a hundred other parents) and then the computer will stack you up for South Side, and then BTW if South Side doesn’t work out. On the odd chance that BTW has filled up by the 3rd round, you are out of luck.

Some interesting things to come out of this. You can choose all three magnet schools as your top three, and then any other school as #4 and that school will automatically become your “regular school registration” number one choice. Weird, eh?

Another interesting thing that the Choice Specialist mentioned is that you can choose all 11 schools if you like. Wow! I highly recommend all parents to rank-order all schools! 🙂 Or in other words, number the schools 1 through 11 in order of your personal preference. I specifically asked if Dr. Alves’ program would handle more than 5 choices; “Probably not”. *grin* None the less, if you fear the dreaded “unassigned” letter, then by all means do yourself a favor and rank order as many schools as you possibly can. Most of the unassigned letters in years past are because parents only choose 1, 2 or sometimes even 3 schools.

Nov 26th Special Board Meeting

I got the meeting off TiVo again; unfortunately, my upload connection is crawling along at 23kps (*egads! is this 1996?*), but the video will be posted soon video is now posted. The good news is that the entire meeting was a super brief 37 minutes, and I was able to stop recording after 45 minutes.

A significant portion of the meeting was used for comments (from the public and school board members). It was quite interesting to see that the folks from the girl’s Central Soccer team showed up in numbers and had comments lined up from various folks including parents and students. Very impressive. It was also quite impressive to see how they acknowledged the work already begun by the board and the district administration; you could tell there was a sense of “hey, they heard us!”. 🙂 I thought it was also really cool to hear how student athletes have been very active in serving the community and take their grades very seriously. Board Members spoke very highly of the recently christened Novak Academy and Jamar shared how 9 students will be graduating, filling a void where those students probably would not have been able to graduate in the “normal” system (my words). Jamar also shared some good things going on at Kenwood, including a recent bonfire with weenies and s’mores as a community-building event. Sue Grey introduced a couple students who talked about community service projects and how they decided to raise funds for United Way, presenting a check to a representative of United Way (not Sue Grey).

The next part of the meeting was a presentation about the 3rd-party audit, with Dr. Joe Davis beaming because of the “highest rating” they got. Does anyone else think that the “highest” rating should be something a little more spectacular than “unqualified opinion”? I mean, what if the teachers had “unqualified opinion” stickers they slapped on your homework? Anyway, I Read the rest of this entry »