SPS open enrollment "strategy"

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    Open enrollment starts next week and I have a question to all those familiar with the system. I was told last year that SPS was using the model where the computer would randomly select a student ID, try to place that student in #1 selection. If #1 was full, they’d move down to their #2 selection, and be waitlisted on #1. I was told the model could be changing to where the computer randomly selects a student ID, tries to place in #1 choice, if full, then the computer drops student and goes on to the next student, not placing that student in the first round. I called enrollment services and got someone who just told me over and over that the computer places all first round picks and then moves on to the second round picks. She wasn’t interested in having a conversation with me about it and clarifying. I suppose I should just take her at her word that it means the district is using the second model. But she also told me that they’ve always done it this way, which goes against what I was told by another parent. The difference is important because it will alter our strategy about which school we put as our #1 choice. I’m wondering if there is anyone in the know on here who can solidly answer my question about which model is used. I plan on calling enrollment back tomorrow, with the hope that I’ll get someone else who is willing to chat with me a bit about the process. Thanks in advance for any advice and/or insight!



    I called back today and talked with another person who, after a 10 minute conversation, said that the district in fact uses the first model. Meaning, the computer pulls up a student ID, if the first choice is full, then the 2nd choice is used, etc etc. The computer places that child before moving on to the next. This of course is after any tiebreakers, in the general lottery. Reading the Transition Plan on SPS website, it states, “All first choices processed first, then second choices next, etc.” I would take this as the district using the second model (and this is the phrase the first woman I spoke with kept repeating to me, no matter how I stated the possibilities). And yes, I’ll be calling again and emailing to see what sort of answer I get. Anyone out there in the know???



    WOW. SPS never ceases to amaze me – and usually not in a good way! I’ve always understood that you put 100% what you want for your 1st choice 1st. With option schools (and full schools) unless you put your choice in the 1st slot you are not getting in. I’ve been on option school wait lists and not moved – my experience has been put your #1 1st and hope for the best. I’ll be keeping an eye on this since it is so unclear.


    Genesee Hill


    Send yer kids to Puyallup School District.



    If I were you I’d write this question on tomorrow’s Friday Open Thread at saveseattleschools.blogspot.com

    The assignment algorithm was changed during the past couple of years. As I understand it, the current method gives a much greater weight on your first choice school. Hopefully somebody on that blog or this forum will know for certain. Good luck!



    Spring Chicken, Thank you! Excellent idea! I’ll send my question their way tomorrow. I sent an email to the district this afternoon. I’ll be sure to post what I hear back.



    ghar72, I think the person you talked to in enrollment services is the person I had one of the most infuriating conversations of my life with last fall. Keep trying to get someone else on the phone there or ask for her supervisor. I actually complained to the district ombudsman after my conversation – it was that bad. We were first on the waitlist from April until a week after school started in the fall and finally got into the school we wanted. Our strategy was to only put down the option school we 100% wanted because we were afraid if we put a 2nd choice down, we would end up getting that instead. Our fallback was just to stay at our neighborhood school. I have no idea what worked, but we got in. I wish you and everyone else playing this game luck! Hope you get the school you want.



    Thanks for your input, Kayo. It was all rather strange, how she just kept repeating the same line over and over, therefore neither confirming nor denying my statements.

    For us, we’d be happy with both our #1 and #2 choices. If the second model is indeed used, then we would put our number two choice in the number one slot, as we have a slightly better chance of getting into that school b/c we’re guessing there will be less people trying to get in. But there are enough people that we’re guessing all the slots would be filled in the first round, therefore defeating our chances of getting in during the second round. Does any of that even make sense? I’ve had to repeat it to myself so many times, I finally understand it!

    It’s that line in the Transition Plan that gets me: All first choices will be processed first, then second choices, etc. I read the word “all” as meaning they go through all the students’ first choices before looking at ANY students’ second choices. But it could be read as looking at each student’s first choice, then their second choice. I hope I’m not the only one confused by this. I can’t be, right?



    Wow, this sounds like a headache. I hope this system has been revised (or at least clarified) by the time I need to worry about schools (5.5 years from now, LOL). I’d actually bet the person you talked to who just kept repeating the same information doesn’t actually understand the difference between the two placement models. I always get stonewalled like that when trying to get clarification on subtle (but important!) differences between things.



    Sarah you can count on things changing in 5.5 years. Over the years one of the few things I’ve come to expect from SPS is regular changes to their policies. It’s not always bad, mind you, just be aware.



    That is confusing…….. Both years I put my 1st 2nd and 3rd choices. 1st year we got in to our #1 a week and a half after school started and chose to stick with the neighborhood school. 2nd year got our #1 (which was a different #1 than the previous year) and got in. When did things get so confusing? Back in the 80’s I just went to my neighborhood school and liked it. Was it like this for our parents? :)



    ghar72, looks like you found your answer on the SSCF blog. I just thought I would cut and paste it here for other interested parties!

    In short, they process all 1st choices first. If your 2nd and 3rd choices are popular as well, your chances of getting in as a fall-back if you don’t get into your 1st choice is basically nil. Here’s the long answer from StepJ on the Seattle Schools Community Forum:

    “Your application for your first choice submission will be processed along with everyone else that listed the school as their first choice. Each applicant is given a randomly selected Lottery Number (one of the tiebreakers.) Student ID does not come into play in the process unless you are enrolling twins.

    All of the tiebreakers are taken into account (including the randomly selected lottery number) and a score for your applicant is calculated. Then all of the applicants are ordered for that school based on their calculated score.

    If you don’t get your first choice then the process will continue for you when a new randomly assigned lottery will be given to you for your second choice, score determined, and your applicant ordered along with everyone else that also listed that specific school as their second choice.

    Once all of your choices have been processed, if you do not receive an assignment to any of the choices on your application, you will automatically be assigned to your attendance area school. You do not even need to list your attendance area school on your application as it is the default.

    You will then be ordered on the wait list for the school you listed as first choice based on your score from the calculation of the tie-breakers.

    If you truly do not want to attend a school do not list it on your application. If you receive an assignment to a school on your application you give up your seat at your attendance area school.

    A new consideration this year is the distance tie-breaker so don’t overlook that.

    Another consideration is our current capacity issues at most schools. Unless your second, third, etc. choices are schools that are dramatically under enrolled the odds are super slim that you would get in after all of the first choice applications for that school have been processed.”



    Hi StringCheese,

    Thanks for pasting that. Not what I was hoping to hear, but at least I know how it works so we can hopefully get into our 2nd choice. As an aside, you were the one who tipped me off to the way the system works. Last year during a conversation on the blog about STEM, you told me there were two different ways open enrollment could work. So big thanks to you for opening my eyes!



    Ghar72 that is exactly the same person and experience I had. She kept repeating the same line, I would ask the question again, she would repeat. We went back and forth about 10 times with me getting increasingly frustrated by the obvious stonewalling. No sign of life and/or humanity, lol. Made me seriously concerned about what goes on down there at HQ! The ombudsman and her supervisor on the other hand were great and helpful so not all bad i guess. Anyway, good luck. Hope it works out!


    Thanks for posting the answer, even though I don’t like it. This system gives people who can accept their default school a big advantage because they can afford to gamble for a long-shot #1 school that may be very popular, knowing their fall-back position would be ok too. However anyone who is unhappy with their assigned school must carefully choose a #1 that’s less popular and possible to get into. Seems unfairly biased toward people who live near a popular school. Oh well.

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