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tips for ranking kindergarten choices

Magical thinking is good in literature and bad in school ranking.

  • If you would like to attend your zoned school- LIST IT!
  • If you would absolutely not attend your zoned school, don't list it (but you better have a back up plan). If your zoned school is not popular and if you don't list it and you don't get lucky with your other choices, you will still probably be placed there- but no guarantees, ever.
  • Listing 20 12 schools does not improve your chances of getting in somewhere. Listing schools that take your priority (outside of zone, outside of district, etc.) does. If you list 20 schools that you have NO chance of getting into - you won't get in. Magical thinking will only disappoint. If you rank 2 schools that you have a good chance of getting into, you probably will (especially if one of those 2 is your zoned school).
  • The DoE is not out to screw you. Give up the conspiracy theories, as juicy as they are. This is a bloodless algorithm that doesn't take into account the favored or least favored tastes in each little neighborhood in the city. It is a big city, get over yourself. This is a giant, ham-fisted (yet elegant) placement system. Read this superb article in The NY Times by Tracy Tullis (thank you Tracy!!!) about the algorithm for HS placement (same algorithm they are using for K, with geographic priority instead of the schools' lists being the matching factor)
  • Your ranking is important only to tell the DoE where you would prefer to go. How many times can we all say this - DON'T STRATEGIZE. Rank schools in the order that you like them. Even those guys from Duke, MIT and Stanford said so. Ranking a school first DOES NOT give you priority over another person with the same geographic priority that puts it further down their list (also see Tracy's great article).
  • You will automatically be placed on a wait list for any school that you ranked higher than the school you were placed in. The wait lists DO move, more in some districts than others, but there is definite shifting and it happens late in the spring, summer and EVEN into the fall (usually stops mid to late Oct.). This is not about being the "early bird". This is about being the LATE BIRD. The bird who is left after all other birds have flown.
  • You will attend the LAST school that you pre-register at. You won't be simultaneously registered at a bunch of schools and decide later (don't be greedy). Each successive registration cancels the one before it, so they can offer that seat to someone else. You will be pre-registered at one school at a time if you are lucky on the wait lists.
  • There is no point at which the DoE traps you into a choice. As long as a school offers you a seat you can consider accepting or rejecting it. If a school offers you a seat, you don't have to take it. They are really, really leaving the choices open to you, even quite long after school begins! It doesn't matter that you may hear about your Kindergarten Connect choice before G&T, etc.
  • There are way way way more seats (seats for all!) at kindergarten than there are at prek. Your experience or luck in the prek choice will NOT be the same for k.

If you remain calm, pragmatic and patient, you will end up happy. People who panic, drown. People who make fear based choices get the school they deserve. People who can't wait, miss opportunities. You need a relative tolerance for uncertainty to make the NYC school system work. Many choices can be paralyzing and navigating this requires some fortitude, but there is also great opportunity, variety, diversity and talent out there. If you can make it here, you will make it anywhere. Courage. And happy hunting.

I am giving the last Intro to Public School: Prek and K talk of the season on Jan. 26 7pm at Hootenanny Art House in the south slope.

Tickets here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1045290

Reader Comments (6)

Hi -- I live in the PS 321 zone and have a child that will be eligible for pre-k 2015-2016. it appears that PS 321 does not offer pre-k for 2014-2015, is this the case for 2015-2016, if so where do we go???? The next zone over? But if that is the case wouldn't we be a the bottom of the list since we are not in the zone. Please help! We're totally confused and found nothing at any of the school sites.

December 21, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternewbie

Hi Newbie,
Many schools in D15 don't have prek classes because the buildings are so full. Universal prek doesn't mean that there are seats for everyone, it means that you are eligible to try for one. There are under 27,000 public prek seats available and about 78,000 kids on a grade.

As a family whose school doesn't have a prek program, you get a slightly higher priority in the application process (probably in March - we don't have dates yet) to a school out of your zone. If local schools are so popular that they are only able to take siblings and in zone families (who have a higher priority than you), you won't get a seat.

You should look for prek classes in schools that may be less popular, flying under the radar or inconvenient to get to. You may also find seats in local CBECC (Community Based Early Childhood Centers). These are local private preschools, daycares or Headstarts that have done the paperwork to get the funding. They may be full or half time, free or with "wrap around" fees. You need to apply to them on their timeline (usually much earlier than the prek lottery timeline that is only for the public programs).

Many families who are grossed out by the complexity (and late notifications) stick with their current private programs and pray for blessed relief from tuition at K.

December 22, 2014 | Registered Commenterjoyce

Is it foolish to list only 1 school (the out--of-zone, in-district school your pre-k child currently attends)?

January 7, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Please oh please add another date to your Intro to Public School: Prek and K at Hootenany! :)

January 9, 2015 | Unregistered Commenternan

You have a slightly higher priority to that school than other out of zone, in district people, who may apply to the school, but absolutely no guarantee of placement at K. All siblings and in zone families have a higher priority than you at k (whether they attended prek at the school or not).
The school has no say in who attends at k - so even if they want you to come, your placement is managed by Central according to the outlined priorities.

I recommend that you pack your own parachute and list other schools that also may be acceptable. It doesn't disadvantage you for your current prek school. Listing only one school doesn't "force the DoE" to place you there. You have just essentially reduced your options by declining to mentioned the other schools you might consider.

January 10, 2015 | Registered Commenterjoyce

Hi Nan,
Thanks! I am working on it!

January 10, 2015 | Registered Commenterjoyce

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