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Sunday, June 8, 2008

On how DOE's preK fiasco disadvantages poor kids the most

Note: If you are a parent who applied for a preK seat for your child, please take this online survey.

More evidence of the massive screw-up in preK admissions, compounding the serial fiascos of middle school admissions, Gifted and Talented, principal bonuses, and nearly every other program that DOE has insisted on taking control over in recent months.

Despite the fact that there are 23,000 available preK slots for the next school year, 3,000 out of 20,000 applicants received not a single seat: From the DOE website:

Applications for the second round of the pre-Kindergarten admissions process will be available at borough enrollment offices and online beginning June 23. Anyone who did not receive a match in the first round will automatically receive an application in the mail. In the first round, 17,000 of 20,000 applicants received an offer to a pre-K program, and 15,000 received an offer to their first-choice school.

Up till now, the media has featured mostly middle school parents who are justifiably angry at being denied seats despite sibling preferences that DOE assured them would guarantee their child a seat -- or others who had been locked out of their zoned elementary school when out-of-zone applicants received offers.

Another problem, not as widely reported, is how the new centralized process worked against parents whose kids need preK the most. According to a teacher in a Title one school in Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, usually by this time her school has filled up three classes of preK with neighborhood children; but this year they received enough applicants to fill up only one class. Why?

Before this year, neighborhood parents logically went to their local school to apply; this year they were not allowed to do so but were diverted to borough enrollment centers blocks away or were forced to fill out application forms online. The standardization and centralization of the process is inherently inequitable to those parents who do not have internet access or the time to travel long distances to sign up.

This is yet another instance in which the Chancellor’s peculiar notion of equity works against real equity, as Eduwonkette and others have pointed out.

As teacher Lisa North reported on our NYC education list serv:

My school, PS 3 in Brooklyn, has had 3 pre-k classes for the last 2 years. Parents would come to the school to register. Now they have to go downtown Brooklyn first. Our parents DO NOT do that! At this time we only have enough students for ONE class. Why can't parents register directly in the school?

We are also in danger of losing our "gifted and talented" program – one of the few in Bedford-Stuyvesant, because of the new DOE testing.

On top of that, the charter schools are beginning to take a number of our level 3/4 students (as well as some of the others), but especially students whose families are more involved with their education. The DOE is wreaking havoc with our school!

Despite the fact that it is usually the middle class parents who protest loudest, in this case, as in the DOE's utter refusal to reduce class size, their expansion of small schools initiative, and nearly everything else that they do, the poor and neediest kids lose out the most.

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