Preview of 2014-2015 Kindergarten “lottery” results

Champaign-Schools-of-Choice-Dashboard-2014

Original photo courtesy of Chambanamoms.com and Jenny Loshkin. Used with    permission. Photo taken on March 25th.

2014 – 2015 Dashboard

Registrations for Current Year 542 Students
Free/Reduced Lunch 269 273
Transfers for Current Year 15 Students
Free/Reduced Lunch 9 6
Bottenfield 81 Barkstall 79 Carrie Busey 66
Washington 48 Stratton 40 South Side 40
Westview 38 Garden Hills 37 Int. Prep 36
Robeson 35 Kenwood 28 Dr. Howard 14

 

 

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

Couple things from Unit 4

Stephanie Stuart has posted a few things in the past few days.

Choice Forums

Because the first two forums got smothered by weather, Unit 4 has opted to hold “Choice Chats”, where you drop by the Family Information Center “and speak with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Susan Zola about the process and receive further information.”

  • Wednesday, March 5, 2014 – 8-9 a.m. & 12-1 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 6, 2014 – 5-6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 11, 2014 – 8-9 a.m. & 12-1 p.m.

Stratton’s new focus: the Arts

The magnet program at Stratton (MicroSociety) seems to be evolving. It is not clear to me exactly how this will look or what the new focus will bring to the school, but it certainly has a prestigious sounding name: Stratton Academy of the Arts. Even comes with a new mission statement: “Stratton Elementary is dedicated to empowering students to become lifelong learners in pursuit of their dreams.” Now I know some are going to have strong opinions (one way or the other), but before you cast your stones I only ask that you do some homework. I for one would like to talk to Principal Stephanie Eckels and learn where this came from and where they are going with it.

Twitter #AskUnit4 tomorrow

In the past, Carly McCrory of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation (CHCEDC) and Stephanie Stuart have co-hosted a couple twitter chats, allowing the online community to tweet questions and receive answers from Unit 4 officials. I see that the NG is even promoting this event, most likely because of the “new high school” topic. The advertised time is from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm on Tuesday, Feb 11th.

That’s about it for now. I have not yet watched the board meeting, but I saw that it was about 1 hour and 43 minutes; I hope to watch it soon.

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

Choice Committee meeting, Friday August 9th

Attendance:
Dr. Susan Zola
Doretha Simmons
Michele Brown
Becky Laws
Charles Schultz
Laurie Bonnett
Stephanie Stuart
Amy Aviram
Maria Alanis

The agenda was initially split up between 9 10-minute segments to cover various things (including the Wait List, RFP, Registration, Transfers, etc); we started off talking about Policy 705.09, which actually covered almost half the agenda items. And we covered that one policy for the entire 90 minutes. 🙂

We had some really great discussion; I wish it was recorded so that more folks could listen and chime in, even if after the fact. (In fact, I just sent an email to Stephanie Stuart and Laurie Bonnett asking this).

Dr. Zola walked us through the policy. The first part is about parents choosing their top five schools and capacity (aiming for 23/classroom at the K-1 level, 24 if they have to really push it, 25 is almost unthinkable). I questioned the “top five schools” – why not open it up and let parents choose as many as they want. While the FIC staff currently allows this, the policies and the software (previously) did not. We did not come to a conclusion. Some did mention that some parents already struggle to fill in three choices (which is saying something in itself – if I really like one school, why do I have to “choose” 4 others?). My point is, just remove the restriction on the number of schools. When I thought about it, if you want to totally remove “unassigned” cases, one of the best ways to guarantee it is to either have everyone rank order all schools or simply just flat out assigned a parent if they don’t make their top n choices. The point is, there are ways to technically deal with “unassigned”, but what is the root problem? I pose that part of the problem is the sheer complexity of the system; another issue is the desire for “fairness”, for which nobody agrees on a universal definition.

We than got into a long chat about SES (the next section in the Policy). We all agreed that the language used in the policy has to be clarified significantly. Some of us also expressed the desire that SES be defined unilaterally across the district – no more where SES means one thing in one context and another thing in another context. We also talke about the need to clarify the precedence of priorities; Sibling has highest priority, but what about SES and Proximity? It’s a sliding scale, which further leads to complexity and confusion. We talked about the need to be as up-front as possible, even to the point of broadcasting the SES ranges (ie, +/- 15% of what?).

We next moved on to Sibling priorities. One thought that came up was allowing parents of siblings to register in February, or really any time. Which lead to the thought – if a parent knows where they want to go to school, why not just allow them to submit their choice anytime, instead of just a one-month period? Even if you still “run” a school selection month, you can pre-process a significant number of sibling applications thus allowing more accurate numbers for capacity.

Next in the policy is Proximity. Dr. Zola had previously submitted to the Board of the time a revision that was hammered out by the Choice Specialists; we revisited that revision this morning and liked it a lot more than the previous wording. Essentially, it removes Proximity B and simplifies the language. We also talked about removing the April 1st cutoff, since those with extenuating circumstances should be able to contact the FIC any time.

Last, we dove into Unassigned Students. A parent in attendance was able to share a specific case whereby the placement of unassigned students on the waiting list was done in a controversial manner. Via discussion, we strove to hammer that out a bit more, shedding light and sharing information on several different levels. For example, about 5 years ago an Assistant Superintendent had proclaimed that all unassigned students would bump up to the top of the wait lists, ahead of any students that were also assigned to any other school. We spent a bit of time talking about this, trying to figure out what is “fair”; in the end, I think it comes down to having integrity and being open about all the practices, instead of providing a kind of Gnostic special knowledge for only certain folks.

During our conversations, we talked about how some folks in the public have developed a negative perception of the school district in general, and maybe even more specificially various staff, because of the School Assignment system. While many of these perceptions may be formed regardless of reality, they in effect become a type of reality for that parent. I feel that this was an important made by certain members of our group this morning.

Personally, I felt it was an excellent way to hash out various perspectives – I only wish more folks could have benefitted from it. We agreed to follow-up in the near future, perhaps at the end of September after registration and school assignment dies down a little.