Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Waitlists

I've had several emails from parents pleading for info on waitlists.  I truly have none beyond what the district says but I did hear from someone in the know.   Here's an opening remark:

The waitlist is a dead end! Do not give parents and students false hope with the creation of a waitlist. 

 More info:
  • schools do not move their own waitlists - the district does.  
  • the district does allow "swaps" but only if the #1 person on School X wants to trade with the #1 person on School Z - how often does that work out?  Not very often.
  • the waitlists dissolve on August 15th
  • As of March 30, 2016, the District had received 5,653 school choice applications, 5,177 of which were submitted during the on time Open Enrollment period and were eligible for tiebreakers. 1,643 assignments were made during the mass assignment period in early April, and since then 1,184 new assignments have been made based on the choice applications received. Of the students who participated in the choice process as of March 30, 50% were assigned to one of their top three choices (40% assigned to 1st choice, 7% assigned to 2nd choice, and 3% assigned to third choice). 
  • it seems there are about 5,000 students on waitlists
One of the issues? Let's take high schools.  Most are at or over-capacity and yet any space that might open up, according to the district, needs to be saved for new attendance area students. 

It's an interesting issue because more than a decade ago, there was also discussion over holding open spaces.  You can see it both ways really.

 One, you fill the school with students who are already enrolled in the district and are willing to find their own transportation to get to a school.  In that case, you tell newcomers that they will have to take space-available spots. 

Or two, you hold any open seats on the idea that they will get filled by newcomers.  We are, after all, a growing city.

Further, (this from the district's webpage on waitlists:)

Waitlist are based on the established tiebreakers for a school and program as described in the Student Assignment Transition Plan for 2016-17, and on the Admissions page.

Waitlist moves take place in the order in which students are on the list. The District works to make waitlist moves where possible but must also consider the impact that waitlist moves have on the schools from which those students are coming from.

In instances where waitlist moves would significantly reduce enrollment and staffing at another school, fewer waitlist moves are typically made. For example, someone who is 6th on waitlist could not be moved until the first 5 students are moved regardless of what school the 6th student is coming from. 


Based on the Student Assignment Plan and in fairness to the students who are ranked higher, waitlist moves are made in the order in which students are assigned to the waitlist.

I didn't know that the district was taking in staffing needs at a student's currently assigned school when moving waitlists even if there is room at the school that a student wishes to move to. 

Also, fyi:

The Admissions Center will be closed during our end of year transition process from July 11 - 
August 7.

Non-resident student applications will be accepted starting June 1, 2016.  (On this one, good luck.  I can't imagine there could be room for more than a handful of non-resident students.)

F1 and J1 visa student applications will be accepted through August 15, 2016.  (This one, I don't know - does the district have to let these students in? Is this just for foreign exchange students or students whose parents are working here for a finite time?  Anyone?)

24 comments:

Anonymous said...


I knew the district was trying to starve Cleveland STEM of funding by artificially capping enrollment, but this is the first time I've seen them publicly admit it.

Since underenrollment issues are limited to poorer / less white neighborhoods, this seems like a good way for the district to kill off option schools in non-white neighborhoods while allowing them to thrive in wealthy, white areas. Interesting.

--Southeast Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

SE Parent, while I have long wondered about Cleveland (hearing what you've said from several parents as well as Franklin parents).

But honestly, I think you are wrong about south end versus north end on this particular issue. I hear from parents everywhere and, in fact, Kids not Cuts sprang from several north end moms and their schools.

Anonymous said...

It is impossible to get into a Seattle high school now as an exchange student. It is really sad. Exchanges students add so much.

HP

Northender said...

Waitlists have been a joke this year. Their original plan to it all done by May 31st was a complete sham. Now enrollment says it was just the last day to turn in the form. This open choice process evolved after bussing was terminated, but not it doesn't lead to anything under the name of capacity.

Enrollment planning is definitely up to something.

Charlie Mas said...

I think the work of Enrollment Services shows, clearly, why the waitlists should not be tossed out at the end of May, as the staff asked the Board to approve.

Anonymous said...


We paid huge amounts of $$$$$$$$$ to put the waitlists in a bind, created by the department whose job it is to move the waitlists. This is a manufactured problem that we are paying for in more ways than one. Much $$$$$$$$$ is paid to the enrollment departments at SPS. We pay them. They have made a mockery of school choice and that includes all the organization and work the schools have done with open houses, visits, having students shadow and all the work families have done researching schools, attending open houses, visiting schools, signing up for school choice, and don’t forget - vigilantly waiting. That is a lot of work for nothing because SPS doesn’t want to do the work to move the waitlists. Most students on the waitlists would likely just swap schools, but since there is zero transparency in the program, they can secretly do as they please, which is nothing. They fixed the waitlists in a bind and are doing nothing with them. -- SPS parent

Anonymous said...

School choice used to exist but the central district's policy is to eliminate it. This is not actually a secret. This is also why so many of the school specific specialized programs - many of which were extremely successful - have been eliminated. The district (as they told us at a PTA meeting 7 years ago) wants to be able to move children from school to school and have them encounter an identical academic and social environment at each school. I admit I used to think school choice was nuts - it made entering kindergarten a huge ordeal for us, without providing us with a truly useful situation (like access to a school close to our workplace rather than our home). However, 10 years later, I realize I was wrong. I realize how much good it did for teacher development, professionalism, and for the students who reaped the benefits of engaged and enthusiastic teachers. I think it preserved the district as an excellent public school district even though it was a growing city. It provided an opportunity to specialize and grow professionally. And it was certainly not that case that parents flocked to the "good" schools. We found that parents in our neighborhood picked schools based on what was best for their kid and this varied considerably from family to family. Our elementary school, which was in our quadrant but was not our reference school, turned out to be a fantastic choice. The transportation expense seemed to me, as a parent, to be the key reason that the district eliminated school choice. However they "executed their directive" in the clumsiest manner possible and in a manner disrespectful to different family situations and in a manner that maximized family stress.

I agree that ignoring the waitlists is a frustrating and cowardly way to enforce the neighborhood school policy.

-SPS parent

Anonymous said...

They are also using this tactic as a way to dissmantle Advanced Learning programs. So far this year, there has been minimal/no movement in the Advanced Learning waitlists at any school at any grade. And this may have nothing to do with capacity, as students already enrolled at schools with AL programs are also placed on the waitlist.

- Closed doors

Anonymous said...

Please we all need to write and inform the newly elected school-board members of our discontent. I hope each of you remember how they the candidates all PROMISED during their campaigns to stop the district from harming families. I realize it's too late for next year.

So much for all the accountability campaign spiel!

Carmen

Anonymous said...

It is such a crock for the district to hold families hostage in a school they don't want to (or need to) be in because of their dumb WSS formula. If it would be such a tragedy to move these 3 kids over to a school that is a better fit, CHANGE THE FORMULA. Allow for some flex. And if masses of people are trying to leave a school, don't shove them back in and shrug, "Staffing." I imagine this is most acute at the south end high schools- so kids from desirable attendance school neighborhoods are free to go to any school with room, but if you are in a neighborhood with a failing school, you're stuck there. Even if there is room next door. Disgraceful.

They are just so penny pinching with the class sizes- can't be even a student under max, for even one off year grade band, at any school- and so free to hire more and more middle managers down at JSCEE for the price of two teachers a pop.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Closed Doors---Yes, I got no comprehensible explanation from SPS staff for why my AL-eligible child was put on an AL wait list at a school at which the student is already enrolled. Fortunately, the principal uses AL eligibility, not SPS AL assignment, when making clustering decisions.

TGP

Anonymous said...

I prefer neighborhood placement to choice because choice was such a crapshoot. The stress of the lottery drove us to private school. We chose public high school because by that point, it was our neighborhood high school. That being said, I still think there needs to be option seats at all high schools because not all high schools offer the same programs and nor should they. They should reorder the waitlist preference and allow swaps instead of hoping for the perfect match up between two high school waitlists.

HP

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) I note no one has said anything about one issue I wrote about; namely, that the district says they have to hold any open seats for people who moved into the district during the year. As one former Board member said (years ago), if we have people already in the system and the seat is there, it should be filled and newcomers should have to take what is available and then apply the next year if they want to change.

2) Well, the SAP was written to have a certain number of high school seats open because of what HP says - the high school have varied programs. That said, the district can't help the growth and that there are few to no seats available (Roosevelt is putting in two portables and has the smallest comprehensive high school footprint in the district.)

However, when the SAP was written, they still didn't have that percentage of open seats available. That, too, was a sham.

Lynn said...

We can't add a waitlist preference for swaps because then only kids whose neighborhood school is attractive to others would have an opportunity for a choice seat somewhere else. (Kids who want to leave Nathan Hale for Roosevelt would benefit to the detriment of kids who want to leave Rainier Beach for Roosevelt.)

We can't leave kids who are new to the city (or the neighborhood) out of the neighborhood assignment plan - it's just not right. The district doesn't provide yellow bus transportation for high school students - so a kid whose family moves from Franklin's assignment area to Nathan Hale's mid-year would be stuck on metro for hours every day. Any kid who is new to the city in any neighborhood would be making the trek to Rainier Beach every day.

The real solution is to add enough high school capacity so that a few more kids at any school won't create a crisis - and a reasonable number of seats at every school are available during open enrollment.

Anonymous said...

We moved here from out of state under the old assignment plan, just weeks after open enrollment, and I was glad when they changed the assignment plan to offer neighborhood assignment to newcomers. I still remember standing in the enrollment office being told the only available spot was in school X, and the family next to us was there trying to get their student out of school X. We were waitlisted for school Y, still not our neighborhood school, then bided our time at school Y until we could move our children to school Z, our neighborhood school.

-counting down

Anonymous said...

I am more than a little surprised that no one expresses much about the idiocy of enrollment to put these waitlists in an impossible bind. (After all, the organization in charge of teaching our kids knows nothing about probability.) They put them in a bind, and do nothing else with them.

Rather this impossible bind is viewed like an expectation of SPS and this forum is then used to decode JSCEE intentions…and the decoded reveals: To dissolve school choice without coming out and stating their intention. A rude awakening for me regarding the big SPS building.

So anyone trying for school choice has been mislead including the schools themselves. Fooled into thinking all the schools efforts with open houses, …, were for a real school choice, and the schools are fooled into doing this work, but school choice is a hoax.

So now I am just surprised at my own ignorance of how big building SPS operates. School choice is a hoax and I am a fool. And thank you all for enlightening me. -- SPS parent

Anonymous said...

Enrollment Planning definitely seems to have barricaded themselves against families. Parents have forwarded me messages from Enrollment Planning and I would describe them as overtly hostile. I even know of an instance of a parent seeking help from the Ombudsman following a month of no replies to e-mails or phone calls seeking information about the wait list process.

I was concerned when the May 31 date was originally proposed that is was a signal from Enrollment Planning that wait lists would not be moved. That appears to be the case.

Are they just adhering to a directive they have been given to not move the wait lists? Why is it okay to be openly hostile to parents who are reasonably stressed when they can gain no information on when/if the wait list will be reviewed? Why are parents being told a school is full, yet the school is projected to have an enrollment of 20 less students? Are the lists not moving because of embarrassment over poor projections in the past, and not moving the list will show their accuracy this year? Are they not moving the list because it is easier to keep students contained to their neighborhood school? What is the hidden agenda(s) here?

-StepJ

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just to note, I wrote to the Board on this topic, gave them a link to this thread and asked them to please, please read these comments. I didn't get a reply back from anyone but I'm sure they are aware this is happening.

Why are they not moving the lists? I would guess three things.

1) no real overt pressure by either parents or the Board to do so (or at least explain their rationale)
2) they are struggling to find room for everyone coming in and want to tightly control who goes where
3) they don't have to

Po3 said...

What would be interesting to see on the waitlists is the actual number of students enrolled in each grade. I see Orca does have kids waiting to get in, but can't see if those grades are actually full or if they are restricting enrollment to get to a staff cut. If they cleared their waitlist then the school would hit the threshold to keep their staff.

Center school, on the other hand, does not have a waitlist and so the school is "officially" under-enrolled, leaving them open to staff cuts.

Anonymous said...

That's another quirk Po3. When asked about enrollment for a specific school and grade the responses have been, "I don't know that information," or "I can't give you that information," or the question is ignored.

Responding in the same conversation that a school is full, yet that the enrollment numbers are unknown...hmmm.

-StepJ

Melissa Westbrook said...

Step J, "I can't give you that information?" Really? Apparently, some people need to hear about public disclosure. Not knowing is one thing but it's not a state secret.

Anonymous said...


It is extremely frustrating that speculation is all anyone has regarding the waitlists as no-one from JSCEE responds in a meaningful way. It would be hard for them to say “Yes, we don’t care about school choice,” and give some reason, because everyone did all that work for school choice, and the program does exist. They were even having people sign-up for school choice last week. And we are all vigilantly watching the lists. It would look very bad to state their reason for not moving the school choice lists because they offer school choice! They best leave it in a stupid bind and say, “…my, my nothing can be done.” This is all twisted and I so wish for something forthright from that big SPS building.

From my perspective it is Melissa’s number 3) they don’t have to, and additionally: don’t want to. That may account for some of the hostility toward inquiries noted by StepJ. --SPS parent

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen any movement post-May 31 at all for any school?

Anonymous said...

Any updates on waitlists -- any waitlists? Is Enrollment truly going to dissolve them all on August 15th? Does anyone know a school where they've actually moved? My high schooler is in tears telling me he won't go back to school this fall at his current school and would rather drop out. His #4 spot on a wait list was just a cruel false hope. In my experience people don't usually give up their spot until September, so I guess all those spots that open will simply be held open for newcomers since there will be no more waitlist. If only there were some transparency. . . #theonlyonenotusingafalseaddress --SESeatown