New York: From Pre-K to (dual-language) Kindergarten, a 2nd Lottery

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jan 24 14:57:54 UTC 2009

January 23, 2009, 9:12 am

>>From Pre-K to Kindergarten, a 2nd Lottery
By Elissa Gootman

Erin E. Sun thought she had won the education jackpot when her
daughter Violet's name was picked in a lottery for prekindergarten
slots at the Shuang Wen school, a Chinese dual-language public school
on Cherry Street in Lower Manhattan. Now she and other parents are
facing some disappointing news. "We knew it would be a long shot, but
when she got in we were absolutely ecstatic," Ms. Sun said. "We
thought she was set until eighth grade."
But Ms. Sun, and other parents of Shuang Wen students, recently
learned that they will have to enter a second lottery if they want to
keep their children at the school for kindergarten. The reason: a
recent push by the Department of Education to standardize school
admissions throughout the city.

"We don't want to disenfranchise students who didn't go to a public
school prekindergarten program or went to a public school
prekindergarten program at a different school," said Andrew Jacob, a
department spokesman. "That's a decision the school was aware of last
year, and that's the policy we're sticking with." Mr. Jacob said the
department had tried to make the change at Shuang Wen last year, but
relented after school leaders said they had already told
prekindergartners' parents that their children would be given priority
in the lottery for kindergarten slots (effectively guaranteeing them

But parents like Ms. Sun say it makes no sense to force
prekindergartners to reapply for kindergarten slots — particularly
when the children will have studied Mandarin language and Chinese
culture for an entire year. "Anyone that has children that age knows
how traumatic it is for a child to switch schools and lose their
friends and their teachers and their familiar surroundings, and my
daughter just went through that last September," Ms. Sun said, adding
of Violet, 4: "She cried every day for a while when I brought her to
the new school, and now she's finally gotten adjusted."

Ms. Sun noted that Violet came to Shuang-Wen after three years at a
private Mandarin immersion preschool program. "If I had known she'd
have to enter a lottery again after a year," she said, "I would have
thought really hard about switching her." Ms. Sun and other parents
are planning to meet at the school, also called Public School 184, on
Friday afternoon to discuss the policy and efforts to get the
Education Department to change it. Mr. Jacob said that he did not know
how many elementary schools have historically given priority to
prekindergarten students in allotting kindergarten seats; this is the
first year the department has set a citywide policy requiring that all
students, even those enrolled in pre-k at a given school, formally
apply to kindergarten, and prohibiting schools from giving their
prekindergarten students priority. Since many prekindergarten and
kindergarten programs mostly admit children from their neighborhoods,
lottery admissions are often not relevant.

But one official at a popular elementary school that picks students by
lottery said the school intended to give priority to this year's
prekindergartners anyway, insisting that the school not be named so it
might "fly under the radar" and avoid City Hall's attention. "We
consider pre-k a part of our school community; we don't consider it a
separate program that we're housing here," the official said. "Our
prekindergartners are part and parcel of everything that we do here."

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