Playing the NYC Public School Lottery

Cross-posted at The Times’ Ft. Greene Local

School lottery

At 6:45 last night, the family room of Community Roots Charter School was packed. Rows of nervous parents, a few accompanied by fidgety children, watched glumly as administrators drew names from a lottery machine and entered them into the spreadsheet projected on the wall.

Lucy, Nathaniel, Nylah, Yasmin…

Twenty minutes later, as the waiting list passed 100, nearly all the families had left.

For 37 spots in next year’s kindergarten class (13 siblings of current students were automatically granted places) Community Roots received 420 applications, more than the double the number from 2008 and an astronomical amount for a school in only its fourth year.

Part of the lure the school, which shares a building with P.S. 67 on St. Edwards Street near the Whitman projects, is, of course, the increasing appeal of free education, as private school becomes a distant dream for more and more parents.

But the Community Roots’s relatively small class sizes, inclusive educational approach and rigorous, social-studies-based curriculum have also won raves.

Community Roots Charter School

Abi Franks, mother of a current Community Roots kindergartener, said that when her daughter received a diagnosis of autism several years ago, Ms. Franks was discouraged from entering the public school system altogether. After a year at Community Roots, her daughter is reading at a second-grade level.

The surge of interest in Community Roots is also due to the relative lack of high-performing schools in District 13. In comparison to neighboring District 15, which includes the more affluent areas of Park Slope and Brooklyn Heights, residents of District 13 have a limited range of options. Many District 13 parents apply to up to 10 schools simply to increase the chances of getting their kid into a good kindergarten.

After two hours of drawing kindergarten names, administrators began to pick for first grade, which had no available spots and 91 applicants. The only parent left in the room was Tanya Garment, accompanied by her son. Number 22 out of the lottery hopper was Joseph Garment.

“That’s my name!” Joseph shouted, pointing at the screen.

Ms. Garment was less sanguine. “I’m going to home-school him,” she said defiantly. With 21 students ahead of him and the possibility of newly admitted students’ siblings bumping him further down the waitlist, Joseph’s September plans will not be clear until enrollment is finalized this summer.

While the lottery is transparent and democratic, it’s also prolonged and stressful. This is one of the main reasons why, as Community Roots founder Allison Keil noted, parents aren’t encouraged to attend.

For the class of 2022, if they can get past kindergarten, applying to college should be a breeze.

~ by Jessica on April 8, 2009.

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