Tuesday, May 11, 2010

District 1: Choice, confusion & charter schools

DOE screws up yet again; leading to class sizes as high as 35 in k for next year at a d1 school. Read comments below as well.

May 7, 2010

District 1: Choice, confusion & charter schools

Written by Laura Zingmond @ 6:12 pm

InsideSchools



It’s been a bumpy ride this spring for kindergarten enrollment in tiny District 1, New York City’s only full choice district, located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Parents claim that kindergarten applications were lost, or processed inaccurately, causing potential overcrowding at some programs, under-enrollment at others, and frustration among affected families.

Adding to the confusion for a few families, was the question of whether students who live in District 2 but are zoned for District 1 should be entitled to admissions preference at District 1 charter schools.

With roughly 12,000 students, District 1 is one of the smallest districts in the city. It is also the only one with no zoned schools. It adopted a choice model of admissions in 1991.

“The old district under the school board created all choice to decrease racial and economic isolation as the neighborhood gentrified and new, small experimental schools were born,” said Lisa Donlan, District 1 community education council (CEC) president.

Families of young children must research and apply to schools, ranking their choices on an application that is specific to the district.

This year, an error occurred in the processing of applications which is handled centrally by the Department of Education through an an outside vendor. As a result, current pre-K students at PS 110 weren’t given priority for kindergarten assignment to the school. (According to the admissions guidelines, enrolled students get first priority). Instead, the majority of seats were filled by students with lower priority.

The DOE agreed to enroll all the affected students — roughly 27 — at PS 110 as well as to honor all the offers extended in error. Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a Department of Education spokesperson, said that the DOE will fund classroom teaching assistants in the kindergarten classrooms. He said some attrition is expected once families choose other options, such as enrolling in Gifted and Talented programs.

PS 110 hosts the district’s G&T program and typically has four three kindergarten classes: one G&T, one Collaborative Teaming Teaching (including students in special education) and one general education. It’s unclear whether the school will add more kindergarten classes next fall.

While PS 110 has a surplus of incoming kindergartners, The Neighborhood School still has openings for next year even though there are families who said they ranked it first on their application but were not offered a spot.

According to District 1 CEC president Donlan, more transparency and greater safeguards are needed to prevent such problems.

“The DOE needs to verify any lists with principals before notifying parents, by building in ten days to two weeks of adjustments for the principals to trouble shoot,” said Donlan. She also suggests that schools keep copies of applications for all families who ranked them first or second to allow for quick follow-up. “It would be better to design a system that had checks and balances and [quality assurance] built in.”

In fact, some families report not having received any kindergarten placement at all yet, although letters to District 1 families were supposed to be sent on April 16. According to Zarin-Rosenfeld, all letters are out now. “There were a small handful that were delayed due to postage issues,” he said.

Charter school confusion

Confusion extends to charter school admissions as well. Some residents of Stuyvesant Town who thought they would get preference at District 1 charter schools because they are zoned for that district’s elementary schools found out otherwise. (While Stuyvesant Town is physically located in District 2, for years a strip of buildings lining 14th street have been zoned to attend District 1 elementary schools.)

Manhattan Charter School, relying on Department of Education zoning records, gave admissions preference to Stuyvesant Town families zoned for District 1. In fact, according to Zarin-Rosenfeld, Manhattan Charter School should only have given preference to those families that physically reside within the district. “The Charter School Office will work with MCS and its Board to rectify the error,” he said.

The other charter school located in the district, Girl’s Preparatory Charter School didn’t give admissions preference to any applicant from Stuyvesant Town. Girls Prep relied on the New York City Department of City Planning records, which recognizes only geographic school district boundaries.

Are you a District 1 resident applying to school? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Comment below.

5 Comments »

1. Last year, we were high on the wait list for Girls Prep. We were told that we would most likely get a Kindergarten spot and to have our daughter measured for uniforms. Afterwards, we received a letter stating that after a review of all addresses, we were determined to be District 2 residents and could not receive priority as District 1. Yes, we live in Stuyvesant Town but are zoned for District 1 elementary schools. The Charter Schools use the DOE Geographic Planning Tool to determine your zone. The DOE told us that we could not attend a District 2 elementary school which is down the street from us. Girls Prep told us we were not considered District 1. After a lot of time spent back and forth, Girls Prep would not consider us and we were dropped over 100 spots on their wait list.

Comment by MR — May 8, 2010 @ 9:42 am

2. so, what does all this mean? are they doing something to correct the ererors (besides offering ONE TA) or is this just a report of what most of the 110/neighborhood parents already know? also, there are only THREE kindergarten classes at 110, not 4, unless there has been a change since i spoke to the principal on friday….

Comment by lsjet — May 8, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

3. We are one fo the PS 110 families impacted by the DOE screw-up. Their solution to the issue is appalling. Adding a teaching assistant when the class size could be up to 35 kids for kindergarten makes absolutely no sense as the only consideration by the DOE to dal with this issue. There are no additional resources given to the school to help support the kids kids coming into the system. No additional help for science, computers, reading, etc. Here is a bright idea. How about Kim Cobb’s position gets eliminated (it’s obvious she is incompetent) and her position funding $100,000 get allocated back to PS110 for educational support. It is classic DOE to blame an outside vendor for this screw-up.

It’s also quite funny how Mr. Rosenfeld has time to talk to inside schools but doesn’t have the time to even respond to any PS110 parents impacted by this colossal screw-up. Our tax dollars at work.

Comment by anonymous — May 8, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

4. Thanks for updating us about the number of classes at PS 110. It’s noted in the article.

Comment by Laura Zingmond — May 8, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

5. I also have a child at P110 in PK. I agree with #4 comments and have written all of our city officials, made calls, etc. The DoE’s lack of competence, transparency, and accountability for their actions is inexcusable. And all this when the centerpiece of Chancellor Joel Klein’s administration is accountability. It’s a joke. It is my understanding that the DoE did not keep copies of the applications sent to the outside vendor (so they have no record of their actions) and they completely eliminate every stakeholder in the process by not even vetting Offer Letter Lists with principals before letters go to families.

The DoE needs to do better and yes, they need to commit additional resources beyond a TA to P110.

Comment by Anonymous — May 10, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

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