Accountability · admissions · Blog

A Matter Of Trust: Coronavirus, the Department of Ed & NYC Families

It was supposed to have been a done deal.

As covered in great detail here, on Wednesday, March 3, after a series of cryptic and downright nonsensical statements about how coronavirus absences would affect middle and high school admissions for September 2021, Mayor Bill De Blasio said at a press conference:

“Attendance will be frozen as a factor in admissions for the foreseeable future, so as not to allow any impact to this crisis to negatively affect the admissions process.”

That should have been the end of it.

That was not the end of it.

For reasons well known to anyone who has ever tried to deal with the Department of Education about… anything, some parents were – to put it bluntly – not buying what De Blasio was selling.

A sampling of the comments I received:

DeBlasio’s “frozen” language is still cryptic to me….

My daughter was late to school yesterday due to a late train, and I received a call from her school saying if students do not have 98% attendance, they will not be promoted to the next grade… this is such a horrible message in light of the situation….

Does anyone really believe that schools won’t be looking at attendance on report cards? I don’t trust this at all…unless they revoke keeping a record of absences on report cards….

People may be falling for this statement, but for the middle school my kid will be applying to…her final report card is 75% of the rubric. Absences will be listed on that report card. I don’t believe for a second that the administration won’t rank attendance (whether they openly admit it or not)….

I don’t think this is an easy change for doe to implement. Aren’t there system(s) in place which use attendance data as a variable in the admissions algorithm? That means that these systems have to be reprogrammed and tested in time for 2020-21 admissions. I’m sure that doe is not an agile machine which responds quickly to changes. We all have seen what happens during their system rollouts. They need to assure the parents with proof that attendance will not be counted against them. I think each school admission page should be immediately adjusted to begin with but really there should be a transparent way for the parents to see how their child was placed in the algorithm. Without transparency DOE can claim whatever they wish to without being held accountable….

My understanding is the individual schools rank their applicants based on rubric and submit that data – ranked order and composite score – to doe Central to feed it into the main matching algorithm. Last year’s LAB admissions issues were the result of a screw up in how that data was calculated (spreadsheet?). So it seems like it’s the individual schools that have to be held to account that they follow Central guidance and change rubric calcs. It will be a mess….

In 1986, Billy Joel sang:

And some might have learned to adjust

But then it never was a matter of trust

Families don’t trust the New York City Department of Education.

They have been lied to, too many times.

Especially when it comes to admissions. 

Last April, an anonymous source told me:

No parents should trust a waitlist. I work in a public school. I help with registration. I can see how we move kids around. For example, if a parent knows the parent coordinator or someone in the school, they are moved to the top. Previous year attendance is also very important. If a child has been absent a lot, we move them further down the list. Attendance affects the school. If we know a child has been absent a lot in Pre-K with no excuse, the school doesn’t want them. Parents shouldn’t trust wait-lists because principals and secretaries modify them all the time.

And just this past February, despite multiple reassurances from official sources, the students of Manhattan Center for Math and Science High School revolted when they believed the DOE was secretly altering their admissions criteria. Past experience had taught them not to trust official sources.

The DOE promised high-school placement results for September 2020 “before Friday, March 20.”

For the first time, there will be no Second Round of admissions, and parents will allegedly be able to access their child’s waitlist number and track its movement in real time.

When the change was first announced in August 2019, I had many, many questions about it.

The key one came down to:

Picture this scenario: Your child is #5 on your top choice school’s waitlist. Then you find out that a classmate, who was #55, got in ahead of her. Why? Because her family filed an appeal, while you followed the rules and patiently waited your turn. Will everyone need to appeal now in order to, at the very least, keep their spot on the waitlist from dropping?

Guess we’ll find out soon.

Raise your hand if you believe this new approach will make the application process easier and more transparent, like the Mayor and the Department of Ed promised.

And if it turns out to be as much of a mess as the launch of their very expensive parent portal and all the subsequent glitches that came with it, how can families possibly be expected to trust that, next year, absence data will, in fact, be “frozen,” as the Mayor proclaimed, and that admission will be handled fairly and equitably for all affected students?

(Ed. Note: After this post went to press, NYC announced the closing of all public schools through at least the end of scheduled Spring Break, April 20. Plans will be made to feed those who depend on school meals and provide childcare for those who need it. Mayor admitted it’s possible schools may not reopen at all this academic year.)

What do you think?

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