what "school choice" really means for kindergarten

School choice means that you get to express your wishes. It doesn't mean that you get what you want (at least in April).
Lets get some things down:

In-zone families (who have high priority for their schools and have every expectation that they will be accepted there are justified in their shock and dismay) are wait listed at some schools - half the number that were sent away from their zoned schools last year, which is a good sign in general. The schools will make every effort to absorb all that they can before the beginning of Oct. and it is likely that these families will have a seat at their zoned schools in first grade if they want one (there is a little natural attrition and the class sizes can get bigger).

Out-of-zone families generally are also wait listed at any school that listed higher than the school where they were placed. Many of these wait list placements are real long shots for these families (not unlike last year's wait lists), but they are trying for a Hail Mary pass. These wait lists may also move quite a lot before Oct.

Anecdotally, many people received a placement at their zoned school whether they listed it on their app or not. Since this was the first year of Kindergarten Connect placement, we couldn't predict how conservative it would be. Seems like the answer is "quite conservative". When there was any question, families were placed in their zoned school. The difference from last year is that you got a letter that told you, "you have a seat in your zoned school" - right, business as usual. How is this different from last year? Well, last year you didn't get to officially list your choices and you didn't get a letter, but in essence it is the same. At this time last year, if you didn't want your zoned school, you still would have been in the same place; waiting for a seat off the wait lists, according to your "priority". The popular schools haven't changed all that much since last year, they are still getting incrementally more popular (and new popular schools will emerge). There will be movement on the wait lists as people slowly shift around, taking seats at un-zoned, magnet, charter, g&t and out of zone schools. The big difference between last year and this is in expectations management. You got to choose this year and you expected to get one of your choices. A list of 20 choices implies that you will be happy. Now you know that it means very little.

Brooklyn New School (and probably others, particularly "un-zoned schools") has sent out a letter that says there will be a lottery each time a seat becomes available. I believe in transparency as much as the next guy, but I really believe that this is a good thing, so stop whispering "j'accuse". This is not monkey business, this is the policy. Think of it this way: if they had a numbered wait list, you could be #700. When they do a lottery every time, you always have the chance to be #1.   Update: All schools, including BNS were given a wait list in a random (but fixed) order, so that when schools have openings, they are supposed to just go down the list.

We don't know exactly how the wait lists at regular zoned schools will be managed (the schools probably don't know much yet either). They will be told by the Office of Enrollment. They will work down the priority lists - out of zone sibs, prek kids, out of zone/in district, out of zone/out of district. There will not be much if ANY movement until after May 23 (pre-registration ends) and then again after g&t registration ends (sometime in June?) because the schools won't know how many seats are open.

If you are looking for an out of zone or out of district placement (unless you have been very lucky) you will wait until all others are served - exactly the same as last year.

Two things that you need to know from the Office of Enrollment:

  • A family will remain on the wait lists regardless of if they pre-register at the offered school
  • A family can only be pre-registered at one school, but may accept a charter placement and remain on other schools’ wait lists.