Opinion: Nola’s One App School Placement System Does Not Leave Parents Much Choice at All
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a full week since the EnrollNola One App school placements have been posted and yet there is no end to the parental anguish and anxiety in many households across the parish, perhaps even more so than during the month after month…after month of waiting. I am still flabbergasted at numerous times in the past few days alone that I have heard parents reacting to this process and their placement with, “We weren’t even placed,” “I got stuck with my very last choice,” or “Guess I’m forced to consider private school though I don’t know how I’m going to afford that,” and “How is this even legal??”
Seriously, there has got to be a better way than playing roulette in a literal “luck of the draw” lottery placement system of the Orleans parish Charter schools.
As an Early childhood educator in Jefferson Parish public schools, and now as a mother, I have made painstaking efforts to instill a foundation of strong moral character, work ethic, and developmental skills in my daughter before I would even enter her into private pre-school at the age of three. I toured said school the year prior to her enrollment, and considered MANY factors before choosing a facility where she’d be nurtured, protected, and instructed to flourish in these similar ways.
The feelings of angst and panic that have set in the closer she comes to spending her final days at the preschool that I CHOSE, that has exceeded my vote of confidence to enrich and educate her over the past year and a half, are largely due to the fact that this crucial decision in her education going forward won’t be up to me. Instead, it will be made by an algorithm that will be based largely on her sibling’s enrollment (which she doesn’t have), her current address, her previous enrollment in this system already (which is null and void since she’s starting Kindergarten), and her random lottery number. Is it just me or does that sound like a slap in the face??
But don’t worry, it gets worse…
If you visit the EnrollNola website to further educate yourself, which I highly suggest you do, you can view a short animated informational video narrated by what sounds like a warm and jolly “Black Santa” describing this no muss, no fuss, we pick and they simply assign the gift of school placement, rather than the nightmare it truly is. The video states that your child will be placed using YOUR “preferences, priorities, and a simple lotto number” when in reality it is enforced in the exact opposite way of a random lotto number within their specific priority group, and the absolute last thing that is considered is your list of chosen preferences.
The highest preference is given first and foremost to returning students whose enrollment naturally rolls over. The next set of spots are available, up to a certain percentage at given schools, to lower social economic students. Then, priority groups go from those with siblings in the geographic area to those without siblings in the geographical area, to those who have neither siblings, nor are they returning, and may or may not be in the geographical area. Once they are put into these priority groups they are then assigned that lovely lottery number.
Feeling like a winner yet??
Of course not!! And here are a few reasons why this matters SO much, especially as an educator and mother of a first time Kindergartener to this system. In case you haven’t heard, today’s Kindergarten is what our school day’s First grade used to be. In many schools at this level there is NO nap, limited to NO unstructured play (recess), progress monitoring throughout the year, and or district testing included that of a reading level. Children with insufficient foundations for reading by the end of their Kindergarten year SHOULD BE kept back. This is because, their First grade class will undoubtedly contain a larger number of students to one teacher, an increasingly rigorous curriculum with increasingly rigorous testing, and a struggling student in this grade can and will fall through the cracks, pull far too much away from whole class attention, and probably develop feelings of inadequacy and negativity towards their education in general.
This student does NOT simply “catch up.” Each year the deficiency in what they can and can’t do only grows. By second and third grade, their curriculum no longer teaches them to read, they are simply expected to read in order to learn and to pass state tests by doing so. Parents have the right to consider the critical factors of a school’s population (division of race, gender, class size) quality of staff (personal education, experience, teaching philosophy and temperament), discipline versus emotional facilitation (counseling, parent involvement, preparedness for the world at large), and test scores (which is largely about funding) versus schools that believe in actually educating to grow the student. In this system, we can research all of this and more, but still end up with the “throw away school” we listed as number seven simply to round out and complete our form, or worse NO PLACEMENT at all which leads you back to the waiting game in many cases.
Here’s the moral of the story folks: in this system, maybe you hit the jackpot, maybe you crap out on something much too important that you may never get back, and the only ones who lose are our kids. Good luck out there!