In January, families who are applying for Kindergarten will be doing it through Kindergarten Connect, a new online application process. Getting the full story about this new policy is challenging. This page is an attempt to provide families with resources that will allow them to learn about this big policy shift, and to find out why some parents, including us, are deeply concerned about Kindergarten Connect.
Kindergarten Connect According to the DOE
Here is a Department of Education presentation that has been used to explain Kindergarten Connect at kindergarten fairs.
At a Community Education Council 6 meeting, parents had many questions and concerns for the DOE representative. (Liz, of NYCpublic, makes a cameo.)
On December 5th, Community Education Council members and other parent leaders sent Mayor Elect de Blasio a letter that outlines their concerns and makes recommendations:
We write to you to express grave concerns regarding Kindergarten Connect, the Department of Education’s new student enrollment system. It is our fear that this inadequately tested system will result in chaos, confusion and distress among New York City public school parents, similar to the well-intentioned, but glitch-plagued “health insurance marketplaces.” We believe this can be avoided by postponing implementation for one or more years. During this period, the following actions may occur:
1) hold public hearings to ensure that a major public education policy shift is guided by a transparent and inclusive public process;
2) provide parents the opportunity to learn about and offer feedback on the system;
3) revise the policy in response; and
4) pilot the system in zoned school districts.
We base these recommendations on the following information:
- The DOE did not assess the new system in the 29 community school districts with zoned, neighborhood public schools; it was piloted only in 3 districts with unzoned schools. Thus, the problems and complexities of ranking neighborhood schools are completely unknown.
- The DOE has not coordinated roll-out with schools, thus magnet and zoned, neighborhood schools have tours scheduled past the new enrollment deadline. As well, school directories were just released today (12/4/13) and do not present 2013 data, although it is available. This means that parents cannot accurately assess schools and make an informed decision regarding ranking their options.
- The system’s ranking system may maximize class sizes in some districts and reduces parent options in others. The DOE has stated that they will seat the greatest number of students allowed by contract in schools as necessary, even if that is not currently a school’s practice.
- The system relies heavily on computer-based enrollment, leaving parents without computer access seeking assistance from 311, local schools or district enrollment offices. Based on how little the schools know about the system presently, it is unlikely that school staff will be able to assist large numbers of parents in the complex process of researching schools and assisting the parent in ranking their options.
- Outreach to public day care, Head Start programs and Universal Pre-Kindergarten programs has been completely inadequate. We have yet to find a UPK or Head Start program that knows about this new process, even though the application period begins in roughly 30 school days.
- Finally, and most importantly, matching English Language Learners and Special Needs students to schools requires more information and sophistication than is present in the system described by the DOE. This absence may systematically disadvantage these children, widening inequities.
Here is the letter in its entirety.
Fill out this form to send your note to Mayor Elect de Blasio.
More Parents Weigh In
Will families be put on wait lists of schools ranked BELOW the placement they receive? Will families be able to change their minds as they get to know the schools in the city better over the course of the application process? How will the applications at magnet schools, that the DOE says families can still fill out in person, intersect with the online application? How will the DOE ensure transparency in this process? How will parents be able to verify that their ranking is honored and how will schools verify that families are or are not applying to them?
It seems to me the nut effect of this system is to circumvent school zones, the sole statutory power of parents, through their elected representatives on the CECs. If your zoned school gets thrown into the same pot with every other school that you “rank” on an application, you’ve lost your guaranteed seat. The zones may still exist in name, but they’ll become null quickly and everyone will aim for the “grass is greener” school. Parents will be “playing the odds,” balancing the popularity of magnet and zoned schools against odds of getting in. It’s well and good for the DOE to claim this isn’t a lottery, but if people treat it like one and it functions like one, well, it’s a lottery. What’s more, families and and school administration will have one fewer opportunity to make a vital face-to-face connection at the start of a child’s schooling. While I have my doubts this system will actually simplify the process, easier is not always better. A crucial aspect to every child’s success is the home/school connection. When families have to travel to their child’s school to apply (usually only a few blocks), parents have the opportunity to meet face-to-face the men and women with whom they will be communicating about their children’s schooling and make the first step toward parent involvement. By centralizing the process, the DOE is actually blocking that crucial relationship, thwarting community development, and undermining the message that a parent’s presence at a child’s school is essential to the child’s learning. Worse, the DOE already faces accusations on the middle and high school level that they reduce or raise the registers of schools depending on whether they want to make space for co-locations (and regardless of the school’s success rate). Centralizing the systems means schools will no longer know how many families truly wish to attend. Families won’t know if their preferences are being honored or subsumed to the DOE’s greater agenda of closing select schools. Surely, we can come up with another way to make applying to kindergarten easier for families.
As anyone who has had to go through the process of ranking schools for an application knows, it is not easy and requires a researcher’s savvy and a gambler’s sense of how to play the odds.
My younger son will enter kindergarten in a few years. This will limit the choices that we have for him. It sounds like it will cost a lot of money to set up this system. That money should be spent on lowering class sizes and offering specials such as art, music and physical education. This sounds like a horrible idea.
It is important to strengthen the ties between families and schools. An impersonal sign-up system weakens the connections. Mayor Bloomberg seems to focus on getting contracts with private companies, rather than providing good schools for children. He should not be allowed to push through more boondoggles. Question: What does the city gain by paying for another layer of contracts?
Registering for K 4 years ago was a mess!!! Now this new system appears even more unfair. I put the oldest in private nursery and pre k because of this mess. My husband begged me the write the check for k but I refused. With this new system I may just fold and pay for private k with the youngest. This will put us in financial hardship but dealing with DOE tech attempts makes no sense. Question: Why do we get accepted to 1 school? I prefer choices i.e. you get 5 school offers, then opportunity to tour and then submit your final choice.
The DoE is asking parents to trust that they can finance and supervise the creation of a system that is so sophisticated that it will allow parents to be put on three waitlists and that it will be able to distribute seats over time (though this part was unclear). Parents can put down twenty schools and the system will always follow the current admissions priority criteria (siblings, pre-k, zoned etc). It actually hurts the brain to think of all of the possible configurations here. And here’s the thing, the DoE uses Pearson even though they have a poor track record. ARIS has been a flop. The High School admissions process causes parents and students incredible anxiety and a huge segment of students don’t get any of their choices. The track record just isn’t there for me to trust that this will go well. The track record for school-based admissions is good enough. Let’s not risk it. DoE: keep the support and outreach for parents who need it the most and make applying easier, but don’t centralize it.
A test of the so-called “Kindergarten Connect” program was implemented in District 7 in the Bronx this year and left parents in the low-income South Bronx community confused and frustrated. “Parents were concerned,” said Liz Flores, 30, who applied to 10 public schools using the program, but did not get into a single one. Her daughter ended up at Heketi Community Charter School on E. 138th St. — but Flores was left with a bad feeling about the program. “A lot of parents aren’t necessarily familiar with computers,” she said. “Applying was a big struggle. It threw me off. When I went to the website, I didn’t know what I was filling out.” “Parents in general want a better outcome for their children, but parents don’t know to go on the computer,” she said. Daily News 9/17/13
We will be applying for kindergarten in 2015-16 and this policy will take the decision process out of our hands and into a computer’s.
This could seriously affect my niece and nephew, my future children, and my friends’ children, in that it seems that if the top three choices don’t admit them, they will be without kindergarten. That should not be a possible outcome for ANY child in NYC. All children deserve the right to PreK and kindergarten. Questions: How will it ensure that children will not end up without placement anywhere? What is the recourse if students are sent to a school other than their top choices? Can parents petition to transfer? Why are there not enough kindergarten spots for the kids of our city?
I feel sorry for City families with children younger than mine. I feel like so much of the important part about choice is being removed from their hands. If the goal is preparing kindergarteners for college, this is not the way the college admissions process works. If the goal is school choice, this is taking much of the choice out of the hands of parents. Question: Why don’t you ask parents what they prefer and listen to their views?