Streams

Parents Give New Kindergarten Application Mixed Reviews

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - 04:00 AM

The new online site for kindergarten applications, Kindergarten Connect debuted earlier this month. SchoolBook asked families in Queens how it was going; we got very mixed reviews.

For some, the new system was straightforward. 

“It was a little bulky website, but it's okay. It took 10 to 15 minutes,” said Timothy Sexton, a father who attended a D.O.E. information session in Forest Hills. "They really have streamlined the process, all and all."

But, for others, the process wasn't so simple. Twelve-year-old Ana Paolo Lopez Garcia from Corona was translating the info session for her mother.

“For us it's kind of hard,” she said, because her mother can't be independent. “She always has to see someone, and other people have to tell her what to do."

Garcia says the family plans to apply online at a neighbor’s house. While the online application is only in English, there are instructions in nine different languages.

Deborah Alexander sits on the Community Education Council for District 30 in Queens. She said her group was fielding a lot of questions from parents.

“One of the biggest questions that we've noticed: ‘What happens if I don't get into my zoned school in the allotted time?’”

Her answer: the D.O.E. does not guarantee admission if a family applies after the Feb. 14 deadline.

Jen Lee, a resident of Astoria, said she's visited two open houses at schools near her,  P.S. 17 and P.S. 234. She’s searching for the right school for her four-year-old son, Teo. After-school programs, proximity to home, bilingual programs are all important factors for the family. 

If families do not want to, or cannot, apply online, they can call 718-935-2400 or go to one of the borough enrollment offices, both of which are staffed weekdays, during business hours, and offer translation services for roughly 200 languages. 

Some helpful links: our own SchoolBook Guide to Enrolling Your Child and the D.O.E.'s answers to frequently asked questions.

Contributors:

Shomial Ahmad

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Comments [11]

ruby

Herman:

My comment indicates that it is worse for some people who are applying to only one school. The story includes a possible example, but to make it explicit: people who don't have the internet at home, people who don't read English well enough to fill out an online application, people who have sibling preference and are already at the school, people who aren't reading education news sites to get all the latest updates and will assume they can walk into their zoned school in June and receive a placement as they've been able to do for decades, people who move to the city after February 14, etc.

Note that the system is worse for some people who are applying to more than one school, because in years past those people could receive a placement offer at multiple schools and choose among them.

Last, if you were gonna get frustrated by the "arbitrary" application hours at your local school, you are in for some frustrating few years. :)

Jan. 28 2014 05:06 PM
Herman

Ruby, the new system is better for people applying to one school as well. It is easier to apply to one school on a website than it is to apply to one school in person during whatever arbitrary hours that school makes available for applications. Perhaps you can explain how the new system is worse for people applying to one school?

Jan. 28 2014 04:01 PM
Barb from Queens

This is idiotic! Kids belong in neighborhood schools. Every neighborhood deserves good schools. Kids should be in places where they know their surroundings, have adults nearby, and can walk home.
As a commuter,I am tired of sharing my public transit with small children eating breakfast on a moving conveyance. Why do we want to turn them into tired little old people before they are twelve? Why are we adding to the commuter crush, when it could be avoided?

Jan. 28 2014 02:57 PM
ruby from clinton hill

re Matt's comment, I don't think it's misleading. the prior system was absolutely easier for some people: those just applying to one school. the new system is easier for others: primarily those applying to multiple schools.

what i'll be interested to see is how it nets out across the system - how many families will fudge their way into schools because no one is verifying addresses upon application; how many families will be shut out of zoned and other nearby schools; how much wait list jockeying actually changes; how much admin time is really saved at zoned schools; and whether removing the barriers to application results in more schools having turnover at the beginning of the year as families realize how difficult the commutes might be, etc. it will also be interesting to hear the conspiracy theories come out when school enrollments start to change (and they will).

Jan. 28 2014 01:16 PM
Matt from 10033

I clicked through to this story from my email and became more frustrated. Not only is the headline misleading, it doesn't at all contrast the two different application methods accurately. The email blurb I ready said, "No longer can families walk to their neighborhood school, hand in paperwork, and call it a day." I went through this with my son and it was by no means that simple. I had to fill out the paperwork each time for every single school and then staff at the school had to verify my information. I couldn't just hand over a xerox copy of all the paperwork. It was time consuming and exhausting. Meanwhile, there was an online application for pre-k. It couldn't have been easier.

Obviously, any new system needs to take into account different struggles for the people applying and provide as much help as possible to those who request it.

But any implication that a new online system take away the ease of the "old way" is lazy reporting at best, and completely misleading at worst.

Jan. 28 2014 11:47 AM
ruby from clinton hill

The process was fine for me because I came into the process armed with all of the esoteric information about my school choices. It will save time and some headaches for the school administrators, but overall I think the application doesn't advance people's ability to make informed choices. My main problems are: (1) The instructions don't make clear that there is almost no downside to listing as many non-zoned choices as you think you might want at a higher priority than your zoned school, because unless your zoned school is already overcrowded with zoned families, your preference for the zoned school is absolute and you'll get that spot if none of your non-zoned schools has room. (2) The descriptions of who has been admitted in the past are confusing and seemingly not accurate about half the time (e.g., zoned wait list for a school that every year admits at least a couple handfuls of kids from out of zone, etc.). And for dual language programs within schools - typically those are very oversubscribed for zoned English-speakers, but may routinely have spots for ELLs even from out of district - and these distinctions should be made clear. (3) There is no way to search specifically for unzoned schools that have spots allocated to your district but aren't in your district. For example, if I don't already know that Brooklyn New School (a D15 school) has some spots reserved for D16 families, I would only learn that from this application if I just happened to click on that school. The search function should help me understand all schools where I have priority by virtue of my district, not just ones physically in my district. Not a ton of these schools, but they are some of the most popular and the opportunity to attend them needs to be made more obvious to those who can't afford to pay an elementary school consultant to do it for them. Similarly, you should be able to search for dual language programs, especially for an ELL.

Jan. 28 2014 11:37 AM

I'm pretty sure the lack of quality public schools is a major reason families fled the city so many decades ago.

This seems like something important for the city to get sorted out.

Jan. 28 2014 10:00 AM
Ellen

It does strike fear in me. My zoned school is not just not good. It's downright bad. There aren't a lot of good options in my district. The demand for quality unzoned schools far exceeds supply. This turns out to be nothing more than a lottery. As a single mom working full time, I don't have time to visit 10 or 20 schools to figure out what schools I want on the application much less how to rank them. Besides, never mind that the rankings, with so many applying, ranking means little to nothing when it comes down to a computer spewing out results. My son has been in an excellent pre-school at the church where I work. Now I'm facing him ending up in a poor quality school that could easily undermine the love for learning that has begun in him. I still hope for the best but,yes,it does strike fear in my heart.

Jan. 28 2014 09:21 AM
HSM

What's with the headline Shomial? Should I avoid your reporting in the
future? For years I have turned to NPR and WNYC for straight news. Is
WNYC going the way of FOX and MSNBC? Very disappointed.

Jan. 28 2014 09:09 AM
Miguel from Kensington, Brooklyn

Whoever wrote the headline that the new application process "strikes fear in the hearts" needs to learn about accuracy and hyperbole. No one quoted in this story expresses fear or panic or dread. This was a poor attempt at dressing up a solid reporting job with a cliched headline that over-exaggerates the experience of parents.

Jan. 28 2014 07:56 AM
Jerry Piper from Boerum Hill

Translation for 200 languages?

Jan. 28 2014 07:38 AM

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