January 24, 2009

Mountain View schools to use lottery for enrollment

Mountain View Voice : Parents cry foul on enrollment
Parents cry foul on enrollment
MV Whisman uses lottery to decide who gets into schools and programs

by Casey Weiss

It may be up to Lady Luck this year whether some incoming kindergarteners get into their neighborhood schools or special choice programs.

The Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District is enacting an enrollment lottery for the first time as families prepare to register with the district in February. The change in policy comes after the student population suddenly grew, reaching numbers not expected until 2011. Administrators said the lottery will give each family the fairest chance of getting into their preferred schools and programs.

[snip]

Last year, parents camped outside the district office the night before open enrollment started to reserve a place for their students in a specific program or school. Totter said this year will be different, and anyone who signs up during the open enrollment period for 2009-10, from Feb. 2 to Feb. 27, has the same chances.

Mountain View continues to lead in innovation. First, it had parents camp outside overnight to enroll their kids – following the innovative lead of Apple and its iPhone lines. Now! A lottery!

Amazing! What will Mountain View think of next!

Comments (34) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:00 am

34 Responses to “Mountain View schools to use lottery for enrollment”

  1. Alex Says:

    Mountain View is still in the REAL BAY AREA and prices will never go down. BUY NOW OR BE PRICED OUT FOREVER!

  2. vfsv Says:

    Just ignore that man behind the green curtain selling foreclosures:
    http://www.viewfromsiliconvalley.com/id475.html

    Those are just aberrations that mean nothing.

  3. Unreal_Alex Says:

    I always thought “Dana Whisman” would make a great name for a TV anchor. She could be tall, blonde, and say, “This is Dana Whisman, with the news.”

  4. madhaus Says:

    Cupertino school district holds lotteries for all alternative schools and for all students who want to attend a different school than the default (neighborhood) school. And they did it for the same reason: to avoid people camping out overnight in the cold.

    Some of the schools won’t take anyone outside their attendance area. Not surprisingly, it’s the ones with the high scores.

  5. steve Says:

    like madhaus explains for cupertino, Hoover in PA is a lottery school. not sure how PA handles out of neighborhood applicants for the other elementaries.

  6. madhaus Says:

    steve, I have a friend in 94306 who says there is no guarantee your kids get to go to their neighborhood school if you don’t enroll them in kindergarten. And they won’t even let you keep siblings togeter.

    Something to think about if you’re moving there with elementary school-age children.

  7. DreamT Says:

    Wouldn’t it be fairer to enroll based on distance of residence? If you live across the school it doesn’t make much sense to be sent on the other side of town.

  8. vtek Says:

    DreamT, you’re using logics again.

  9. rick Says:

    Being a parent, I continue to be amazed at how the educators in California fails to meet the basic needs for education.

    First you set the class limit, which make your life easier in the name of better education (I guess those of us who are past generations did not have that privilege must have failed miserably). Then when your huge budget is underfunded or your district is overpopulated, harass the new parents and kids by not even providing them basic education in the district, and have fund raising drives every month.

  10. Renter4 Says:

    Prop 13, gift that keeps on giving.

  11. DreamT Says:

    vtek – Maybe you’re right, fair and logical are antinomic in certain situations. However there are many ways to be fair and they can be mutually exclusive. In fact I think using the word “fair” to justify lottery is nothing short of demagogy. How fair is it to the folks who’ve been residents for longer? Who have already sent children to the school? Who paid a premium to live a block away from the school? “Screw them we’re all equal”? To be truly fair you have to take into account everybody’s circumstances, not conveniently erase them.

  12. Real Estater Says:

    >>Hoover in PA is a lottery school. not sure how PA handles out of neighborhood applicants for the other elementaries.

    Let’s just be clear here, although there is a lottery system, Hoover is a “Choice” school. If you apply to a choice school in the Palo Alto Unified School District and get accepted, you have the choice of either attending your neighborhood school or attending the choice school. There are several choice schools in Palo Alto, including Hoover, Ohlone, Mandarin Chinese Immersion Program, Spanish Immersion Program, and Young Five. Each of these schools places more emphasis on a certain aspect of education to suit your child’s need. For example, Hoover is more academically oriented.

    Basically, educational opportunities are abundant within the school system. Yet another elementary school will be opening up in 2010.

  13. Real Estater Says:

    By the way, I’m not aware of any case where they do not allow a sibling to attend the same school in Palo alto. They even go so far as to arrange for the same teacher who taught the older sibling to teach the younger one.

  14. steve Says:

    madhaus writes, “Cupertino school district holds lotteries for all alternative schools”

    in the very next comment steve writes, “like madhaus explains for cupertino, Hoover in PA is a lottery school”

    RE writes, “Let’s just be clear here, although there is a lottery system, Hoover is a “Choice” school.”

    So just how was that unclear above?

  15. Justin Sane Says:

    Speaking of camping out for school admission and lotteries, in 2000 or 2001, the private school Challenger changed from FCFS to lottery for its preschool admission. Before that, it was common for parents to camp out for two days, just to get their tykes into preschool.

  16. Real Estater Says:

    Steve,

    The point I was trying to reinforce is that it’s not like if you lose the lottery, your kid won’t have a school to go to. In PA, you have multiple options, like applying to multiple colleges. In addition, there are private school options like Challenger, Stratford, and Castilleja School.

  17. A. Lewis Says:

    You see the underlying trend all over.

    The good schools are one of the foundations of lots of the high-priced areas around the BA. Not just the peninsula – take Piedmont, which divorced itself from Oakland long ago, partially to create it’s own awesome school district. Albany, a very small town, has it’s own school district and doesn’t have to ‘share’ with Berkeley or anything north (which is West Contra Costa Unified – which I’m part of).

    Good schools ‘happen’, and then word slowly gets out. And people flock there who are planning to have kids, or have young kids. At some point – too many people flock there and it gets overcrowded. Then the richest folks say ‘forget it’ and just send their kids to private school…

    In WCCUSD, the top elementary school has always been Kensington, which is definitely RBA, even by this blog’s standards. So high enough pricing limited enrollment to ONLY 550 K-5 kids. They’re packed in. They have to refuse transfers in.

    The next best school is Madera in El Cerrito – which had lots of room and took transfers in until…last year! All of a sudden, the word had got out too far, and they couldn’t even seat all the residents’ kids, let alone allow transfers in. Now they added another K classroom, and they’ll have to make more room at other grade levels too.

    And so it goes. As soon as a school shows high scores in a moderately priced area – people flock there like mad to avoid the super-priced areas that they can’t afford – and ‘hopefully’ make their own area super-priced.

    I guess you could try to make an RE investment by studying the elementary schools in ‘middling’ areas, and deciding which ones are about to outperform. As soon as one does, the RE values will go up. Just be sure to buy low and sell high…

    Heck, advice to Realtor companies: donate $$ directly to a ‘middling’ school until it starts to outperform, with the direct intention of making commissions on sales in the surrounding area.

    If you did that, I’d like you more as an industry – it would be win-win for once…

    So does this add up to saying the areas with the best schools will not have prices drop, or were never in a bubble? Nope. It just says there are justified price premiums between neighborhoods. It doesn’t mean you should pay too much of a premium.

    Lots of people like myself do the math: what would it cost to be in the good-school district vs. bad one, and send the kids to private school?

    When you look at buying it’s sometimes close to a wash – really depends on the number of kids you have, but let’s say 2 kids – you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars from K-12. So we can understand some of these high prices.

    However, you can usually rent a decent SFH in these same good neighborhoods, get the school district advantage, on only pay a modest premium over the bad school district rents.

    That’s why the price to buy ratios are too high! If you can’t justify it in rents, why in sale prices?

    Furthermore – schools and school districts change over time. Who’s to say your high school will still be the best in the district 13 years from now when your little one is a Senior?

    Who’s to say the ‘middling’ high school 5 miles away won’t be better?

    Renters have more mobility to adjust to changing conditions without penalty.

    Now again, I WOULD RATHER OWN, sure I would, we all know the reasons, but I’m saying the pros/cons are not all in favor of the homeowner, especially when it comes to this public school game so many of us are playing. And I think a lot of homebuyers don’t stop to consider how much they’re overpaying for that better school district.

    Especially when you consider two school districts only a bit different. Let’s say API scores are 950 in School A and 800 in School B. And you pay like 20% more for a similar SFH in district A.

    Is that worth it? Total gamble! It’s going to depend more on your own child, and your own child’s crapshoot in what peer group they have, and exactly which teachers they get, than the average API scores…

    Now if the API score is 400 – OK, look, that’s a failing school, we can all see that.

    But think about your own imperfect education – how much difference does the good school make?

    I submit it’s not enough to justify the highest tier of house pricing in the Bay Area. People are overvaluing the best school districts vs. the ‘pretty good’ ones, and so on down the chain.

    If you go to a halfway decent district, and put in time and energy (and money) to make it better, I bet you’ll do just as well as the fanciest districts where maybe a large fraction of the rich parents can’t be bothered to stay involved – has their nannies dropping the kids off, etc.

    I’m just sayin’…a 950 API score doesn’t magically equal your child outperforming the world. A lot of other things have to go right, too.

    So again, if you find a good deal in the best school district, by all means go for it – but don’t pay 20% (or 50%) more for a few API points – it’s just hype.

    And lastly, I’m pretty pissed off at how NOT great some of these very high-scoring schools are doing. I pay more in rent to live in a better school district, and it hasn’t lived up to my highest expectations. It’s still struggling with slashed budgets from the state, underpaid (and under-qualified) teachers whose union doesn’t emphasize pay-for-performance (I’m in general pro-union, but they can sure make problems, too), and spoiled kids from clueless parents disrupting the classroom.

    I’m sure parents can attest to occasions of sub-par performance from teachers, administrators, and fellow parents in some of the ‘best’ schools around. Of course I don’t mean it’s a disaster at my ‘good’ school, it’s fine – my kids are going to get a totally decent education.

    I’m just saying it’s far from perfect even in the good public schools b/c this state has placed education funding at a very low priority, and the people of this state, as a whole don’t think teachers should be paid much. And this is how I feel in the ‘good’ school with all the advantages and the big PTA fundraising budget…

  18. vtek Says:

    Holly molly. I got lost halfway through reading A. Lewis’ post. All 1103 words.

  19. anon Says:

    “By the way, I’m not aware of any case where they do not allow a sibling to attend the same school in Palo alto. They even go so far as to arrange for the same teacher who taught the older sibling to teach the younger one.”

    Real Estater,

    This has been commonly known in the community for years. I’d like to know why you feel a need to broadcast it here.

  20. nomadic Says:

    If you go to a halfway decent district, and put in time and energy (and money) to make it better, I bet you’ll do just as well as the fanciest districts where maybe a large fraction of the rich parents can’t be bothered to stay involved – has their nannies dropping the kids off, etc.

    Good point. Also, they talk about how the older kids in a class (or sports league) have an advantage, so just think of the advantage your kids could have by being the smartest kids in a “middling” school. ;-)

  21. anon Says:

    Moreoever, nobody has expressed an interest in moving to PA, and nobody has asked.

  22. A. Lewis Says:

    #18 vtek:

    I’ve got a reputation to uphold, you know.

  23. anon Says:

    evidently nobody told him that the only people who live in the east bay are crackheads and drug dealers.

    Where’s RE when ya need him?

  24. Real Estater Says:

    If you go to a halfway decent district, and put in time and energy (and money) to make it better, I bet you’ll do just as well as the fanciest districts where maybe a large fraction of the rich parents can’t be bothered to stay involved – has their nannies dropping the kids off, etc.

    Obviously you’ve never been in a good district. Parent participation is especially high in the “fanciest districts” because high income people value education. In addition, because they are more likely to have a non-working parent at home, they have more time to volunteer at school.

    Due to the ability to raise money through donations, these districts are able to have a second teacher aide in each class room, keeping the ratio down.

  25. Real Estater Says:

    Moreoever, nobody has expressed an interest in moving to PA

    Obviously, Steve, madhaus, and MV_bound are not counted as people.

  26. A. Lewis Says:

    Obviously, you like to make unfounded assertions.

    I’m in a good district with very high parent participation, lots of rich folks, and extra money for teacher aides, an art program, music program, organic vegetable garden, field trips, etc.

    There’s still room for improvement, and it’s sad how much we have to pay for directly b/c the district can’t afford the basics.

  27. madhaus Says:

    How many of you knew that Cupertino Unified is the lowest-funded per capita school district in the county?

    Makes you wonder how they do so much with so little.

  28. Real Estater Says:

    >>Makes you wonder how they do so much with so little.

    Because most of the students were already taught the same materials in China 2 years ahead of their grade here.

  29. anon Says:

    Or perhaps they have parents smart enough to teach them. You know – the type that do more than spend money on their kids instead of posting on burbed day and night.

  30. anon Says:

    strike ‘instead of’, replace with ‘and’

  31. nomadic Says:

    ba-da-bummmmmmmmmm!

    I was waiting for someone to post the Asian-related remark.

    It does seem to go to show that a kid’s own abilities and upbringing have a LOT to do with how they’ll perform in school.

  32. nomadic Says:

    anon – are you of the “anonymousnobody” or “whatdafuq” ilk, or a different anon? Just wondering.

  33. anon Says:

    Beats me. Probably a cheap knock-off. Like flavor-aid. 85% as much snark, half the cost.

  34. nomadic Says:

    As long as you’re snarky, I’m cool with that.


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