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 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:


PS 8's overcrowding

It is not new news that PS 8 is very very crowded and their kindergarten class may be "capped" in fall of 2015. That means that there may not be enough seats available for all in zone families at K. I have found, in other neighborhoods where this has been a problem (look to Park Slope and Kensington for Brooklyn prototypes), that the families who have the best outcomes are the ones who stop shaking their fists in frustration and try to affect change and/or avail themselves of the system which may also provide them with a wide range of school options. The DoE will do what the DoE will do, but they are not against listening and numbers will always get attention. You will feel frustrated through this process and rezoning (which will happen with a new plan or building) is always painful for someone.

Click to read more ...


did you ever have a crazy 21 year old dream?

My daughter, Libby, is graduating from Bowdoin College with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She has a passion for maps, geography and urban planning and she likes a challenge. It is her dream to bike across the US this summer. As her parents, we are so proud of her and scared out of our gourds (trucks, cliffs, bad brakes). But as a former hobos and enthusiastic world travelers we have to put all that aside and support her fantastic adventure.

She has found a wonderful group, Bike the US for MS. She is taking the North tier from Bar Harbor, across New England through the Midwest to Montana and Seattle. She is an experienced treker and has done the NYC to Montreal, Albany to Cape Cod and Pittsburgh to DC trails. Bike the US for MS organizes cross country bike trips that raise awareness for multiple sclerosis, research & volunteer for patients. Many cyclists come to this program for the ride but become passionately involved with the cause. To participate she needs to raise $1 per mile - that is $4295 before the early spring25% of this amount goes to the cost of the trip (support van and trailer, gas for these vehicles, campsite fees, minor bike repairs, team gear, etc.) and public awareness of the program, 50% goes directly to MS research, 15% goes to service projects for MS patients that they will be involved in on the trip, and the final 10% goes for administrative costs.

Since we are in the midst of final (double) college payments and the fundraising is as much of a challenge as the continental divide, we are hoping to assist in her crowd sourcing.

If you can support this amazing cause and dream
Donations (which can be anonymous) can be made online here (please make sure to donate in Libby Szuflita's name)

Libby's Page

Old blogs about the other trips:
Our trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O

Teen Treks


venting about middle school

I have heard too much distress from parents in the wind and now I just have to weigh in. It seems like so many people are unhappy about the fact that there are too few "good middle school options".

I have to ask. Do you mean schools with high test scores?
If you are clinging to the safety of high test scores, then you are empowering the tests and you will be supporting that culture; the stress, the prep, the high stakes and anxiety. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

If it is not high test scores, what makes a good school?

Click to read more ...


high school fair report

It was business as usual at Brooklyn Tech today; crowded, noisy and hot hot hot! It was also awesome. Thanks SO much to the wonderful educators, students, school security officers and DoE Enrollment officials (and my husband who is a school search widower)! I know a lot of you are now freaked out and just plain tired, but I feel very optimistic and energized!

Here are some take-aways:

Click to read more ...


Don't miss these events! from Town Square

If you don't live in Williamsburg/Greenpoint you may not know about Town Square (don't stop reading if you live in another neighborhood!!), but I wish every neighborhood had an organization like them! Civic minded, community building, information AND pure fun creators.

There are two events that you NEED to know about no matter where you live:

Click to read more ...


history book contest 

I asked newsletter readers to send me their favorite nonfiction history book suggestions and I would pick my favorite to add to my night stand pile. They would receive a copy of Uncle Sam Presents: The Great American Documents Vol. 1

Here is a list of suggestions from my readers:

  • Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD by Peter Brown (fascinating look at the dichotomy between the wealth of the church that espouses virtues of poverty)
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester (a riveting book for teens)
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (Teddy Roosevelt should win the prize as not only our most interesting President, but our nation's most energetic and compelling citizen)

Thanks to all who entered! I think that I am going with "Through the Eye of the Needle". We were in Rome last fall and this is a compelling subject that I have never read about before.



NEW District 15 prek seats for fall 2014

This from Brad Lander's Office:

My office has just learned that the New York City Department of Education will be offering a new pre-k opportunity for families residing within District 15. Beginning this September, seven additional classes will be offered within leased space at the former Bishop Ford High School located at 500 Nineteenth Street, BK, NY 11215. The program will be supervised by senior Principal Laura Scott from PS 10 whose school was recently named a “Reward” school by the New York State Department of Education.

Space is limited and will be reserved for District 15 families on a first-come, first-served basis lottery basis. Registration will begin at 9 a.m.  on Tuesday, August 26th at PS 10 located at 511 7th Avenue, BK, NY 11215. Admission to this district 15 program does not provide admission priority to PS 10. Families must bring their child with them and two proofs of District 15 residence, 2010 birth certificate, and vaccination card.

Click to read more ...


what is up with the ERB for K admissions?

If you are getting ready to apply to Private Elementary School (Independent, Parochial or Proprietary) for kindergarten this fall, you may be confused about what kind of testing your child may be doing. The answer to this is you are just going to have to read the application instructions at every school you are applying to in the fall. Each of them will be doing their own thing.

Click to read more ...


ch-ch-ch-changes for public high school admissions

The one big thing that is changing in the HS admissions procedure for the fall 2014 admissions season is that 2%ers (students who score in the top 2% state wide on the 7th grade ELA test) will no longer be given a guaranteed entry to an Ed Opt program. In the past if you were a 2%er and you listed an Ed Opt program as your number one choice, it was a GUARANTEED entry. Sorry, no longer.

Now there are NO guarantees of any placement in the entire Doe admissions process from prek to high school. Oh well, that's life in the big city.

See page 5 of the current DoE HS Directory