Kindergarten Connect, the online form that New York City parents use to apply their children to Kindergarten for 2018, opened on Tuesday, November 28. It is scheduled to close on January 12, 2018.
Every year, I receive frantic emails from parents who made a mistake in ranking their choices, and are now stuck with a situation they find untenable. While I do my best to help them find a better placement, it’s always preferable to steer clear of such errors from the start.
Here are five common mistakes parents make – and how to avoid them:
Mistake: Trying To Game the Ranking System
NYC kindergartens have their admission priorities. Parents can rank up to 12 schools in their order of preference and then a computer algorithm distributes the assignments. The problem comes when parents try to game the system, gambling that they’re more likely to get into a less popular school, and so ranking it first, even though there’s another school they actually like better. They’re crushed to get placed into their first-choice school, despite their neighbor getting into that same first-choice school while only ranking it third.
Solution: Genuinely Rank the Schools in the Order You Prefer.
You will be given your first available choice. There is NOTHING to gain by ranking any other way. In addition, if you are given anything but your first-choice school, you will be wait-listed at all the schools you ranked ahead of it. On the other hand, if you are given your first-choice while you would have actually preferred your fourth, there will be nothing you can do about it. (Well, this is NYC; never say never, or underestimate the power of a persistent parent whining, but it’s not an approach I recommend.)
Mistake: Not Heeding Age Cut-Offs
NYC’s December 31 birthday cut-off means that one-fourth of children will be required to start public school Kindergarten prior to turning 5 years old. Sometimes parents who don’t feel their children are ready decide to not apply for kindergarten until the calendar year their child turns 6. They are then shocked to learn their child will be placed directly into 1st grade (if the school even has room for them).
Solution: First Apply, Then Negotiate
If you want your child to attend public kindergarten, you must apply them the year they turn 5. After acceptance, you may meet with the school’s principal to discuss the possibility of holding your child back. This is a very rare accomodation, and only available for General Education, not Gifted and Talented. Some parents opt to send their younger child to private elementary school, as the cut-offs are different and, afterwards, public schools will honor your child’s grade, not their age.
Mistake: Not Ranking Dual Language Programs Separately
A Dual Language program is one where the standard General Ed curriculum is taught for half the time in a second language. Most Dual Language programs are housed within larger General Ed schools. When ranking on Kindergarten Connect, parents enter a separate code for each school on their list. However, Dual Language programs have their own code.
Solution: Use the Individual Dual Language Code
If the Dual Language program is your only interest in the school, only list the Dual Language program code. If you are interested in both the Dual and mono-language programs at the school, use both codes. This means one school will take up two spaces on your application. Make sure you put the one you prefer ahead of the second one.
Mistake: Ranking Gifted Programs On General Ed Form
While the Accelerated, citywide G&T programs are their own schools, the majority of District G&T’s are, like Dual Language, part of a larger General Ed school. Even if a school has a G&T, that is not a ranking option on your General Ed form. Listing it will not give you a leg up for G&T.
Solution: Use Separate G&T Ranking Form
Your child needs to be tested and, if they meet the cut-off, you will then be sent a different form on which to rank all your G&T choices.
Mistake: Ranking Charter Schools Alongside Traditional Public Schools
While charter schools are public schools in that they are funded with public money and cost parents nothing to attend, you do not rank them on your General Ed form.
Solution: Apply To Charter Schools Separately
You may apply to General Ed public schools, public Gifted & Talented schools, and any number of charter schools. It’s possible to receive acceptance to all three.
When I work with parents at the start of the kindergarten application process, they are very clear about their priorities. They know what they want and don’t see the point of looking broadly. I, on the other hand, always stress that more choices are better than fewer. Take advantage of all your opportunities, then see how it shakes out before making up your mind definitively.
For instance, it’s easy to compare the public school you might get with the charter school you could be admitted to. But, in the harsh light of day, you might see both differently when you are comparing the schools you actually did get into, versus the ones you were hoping for. A decision that seemed simple in theory changes in practice.
When we were dating, my future husband espoused that it’s much easier to get a woman if she’s involved with someone else. You just have to be better than her current guy. It’s harder when she’s single, because then you have to be better than her theoretical dream guy.
Schools choice works the same way.