Kindergarten, Redux

So, here it is, six months after my original post about getting Dean into kindergarten. Here’s how everything shook out in the end.

Public schools: We applied for two different public school programs as part of the general lottery, as well as taking the test for the district “gifted and talented” program. Dean was not admitted into G&T, and the public district lottery couldn’t place him in either of the other schools we wanted, either. The only spots left were in “failing” schools on the other side of the city, which means putting my five year old on a bus for two hours a day to go to a suboptimal school. That was not an ideal option.

(We also had a bunch of communication issues with the district, many of which were caused by our choice to keep Dean back a year due to his late birthday — they were very insistent that he should be going into first grade this year and kept trying to place him in a first grade classroom despite our application.)

Catholic schools: We put down a significant deposit to register him for the Catholic school in our neighborhood for the fall. Registration for that school fills up LONG before parents hear back from the public or charter schools, so the deposit was necessary to have any chance of sending him there if nothing else panned out.

Charter schools: We applied to two charter schools, Tapestry and Elmwood Village. Admission for charter schools is by lottery — there were hundreds of applicants for each, and a limited number of spots. Dean was something like 159 on the waiting list for Elmwood Village, but was the first name pulled for the lottery at Tapestry. There were about 20 spots for more than ten times as many applicants.

So, he will be going to Tapestry in the fall. It’s a great program — everyone we know who has has a child there or who has taught there has loved it. And it has sibling preference, so Owen and Monica can also go there without having to go through this whole lottery experience again.

That said, I think it’s really unfortunate that the second-largest city in the state, with a well-funded public school system as well as a wealth of private and charter schools, is utterly broken unless you’ve either got money or luck. If there was this much stress and work for us, I can’t imagine how bad it must be for students whose parents don’t have the free time or motivation that we do. The bureaucracy is terrifying.

9 Responses to “Kindergarten, Redux”

  1. Pitt says:

    That’s the thing- children whose parents _don’t_ care about their education are utterly doomed, unless they get really, really lucky. Sins of the parents, and all that. It’s really depressing, and it’s part of the reason the poor stay poor. Social mobility only happens if you have a decent education.

    Katie and I are already reading books about education. She’s fairly enthusiastic about the Montessori system, and by chance there’s a very good Montessori school less than 2 miles from our house.

  2. matt says:

    “Social mobility only happens if you have a decent education.”

    It’s interesting that this is a truism among the middle and upper classes, but not the poor. Probably because they’ve never, ever seen it actually work out that way.

  3. Pitt says:

    The rich stay rich because they keep doing the things that make them rich. The same thing happens to the poor.

    I’m sure there are anecdotal cases of what you mention, Matt, but not enough to make any kind of a general statement about it.

    I was telling Katie about your ordeal last night, and she was in disbelief.

    Are the charter schools considered public or is there tuition? How about busing?

  4. matt says:

    Charters are considered public schools — they get a stipend from the city district for each student. It’s less than the city spends per-student for their own schools, but then again, the charters can kick out students who are disruptive or disabled or otherwise require extra help — that is, the most expensive students. They all end up back in the city.

    Because they’re public schools, there’s no tuition. And the students are eligible for the Say Yes To Education program, which includes full-tuition college scholarships to a bunch of places (all SUNY and CUNY schools, along with about 75 private institutions). So that’s a big bonus.

    Some charters offer busing, some don’t. Tapestry does not. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but saying that only students who have a parent with reliable transportation who can pick them up in the middle of the afternoon should apply probably winnows down the application pool a bit.

  5. matt says:

    As for Katie’s disbelief, well, I think this is how most urban districts are these days. I know Brian had some craziness going on when they were looking at schools, and I was talking to my cousin Justin at Easter this year — he’s a reporter for the D&C on the education beat — and he said Rochester is even more screwed up.

  6. Pitt says:

    This is probably the main issue that’s going to have to be addressed for all those visionary urban planners to achieve their dreams of reinvigorated cities. Lively, thriving social scenes and “green spaces” are great for attracting singles and childless couples, but I wager a good number of them are still fleeing to the ‘burbs when faced with the debacle you are describing. Heck, it’s one of the reasons we moved to Carroll County- they have some of the best public schools in the state.

    Nice that you found a good school that’s also funded by your tax dollars. How far a drive is it to drop off/ pick up for you guys? Any chance of carpooling with your friends?

  7. BrianN says:

    Urban schools are complicated because there are usually several in the district, and the city comes up with a “fair” way of allotting spots. Fair is a code word for “needlessly complicated attempt at social engineering,” at least in most districts.

    Our whole school district doesn’t have busses, and they encourage you to send your kid to the “neighborhood school,” which is our case wasn’t the closest one, and we didn’t really like it. It’s not a terrible school though.

    I’m not convinced on the Montesorri stuff, I know a couple people who send there kids to different Montesorri schools. It’s fancy and all, but the tuition is like $20k+.

  8. Pitt says:

    I think our local Montessori is 5k up until G1, and then 10k from G1 to G9. Unfortunately they don’t go past 9th grade. I do like the basic premise behind the theory, that is, rather than simply teaching stuff, they realize that the mind is developing and try to foster its growth and development. Teaching how to learn, rather than just rote memorization.

  9. matt says:

    Fair is a code word for “needlessly complicated attempt at social engineering,” at least in most districts.

    Oh, heavens yes. This is the truth.

    Buffalo desegregated via a busing program back in the 1970s. The goal was to get rid of “segregated schools”, which were defined as schools which are more than 80% or less than 20% white. At the time, the enrolled population was about 55% white students.

    This triggered massive white flight, of course. Now the white student population is about 22%, and they haven’t updated the definition of “segregated schools”. So if you have a couple of magnet schools, like City Honors or Hutch Tech, that are hovering around 50% white, it becomes mathematically impossible for the rest of the district to meet its desegregation goal. It’s insanity.

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