Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Confusion in NYC high school wait lists

In August, the New York City Department of Education announced a change in the school choice assignment process--without announcing any details.  But the plan was that after the initial run of the deferred acceptance algorithm, they would institute some sort of wait lists. I blogged about it at the time, and was concerned by the lack of detail.

Here's a current story from Chalkbeat that suggests that the details are still opaque, but that families are learning that the waitlist position they were given isn't reliable:

How can you move back on a waiting list?’: NYC’s high school admissions tweaks spark confusion
By Alex Zimmerman  May 8, 2020

"students vying for the city’s most coveted schools are discovering that their position on high school waitlists can worsen over time, a situation that has come as a surprise to some families — adding anxiety to an admissions process that is already famous for its complexity.
"Every student who fills out an application and does not get into their top choice is automatically waitlisted. If you get your third choice school, for example, you’ll be on the waitlist for your No. 1 and 2 choices. Nearly 44,000 students did not get into their first choice high school this year, automatically placing them on at least one waitlist.

"The second way is that students can add themselves to any waitlist once the initial matching process is over, even for schools a student didn’t initially apply to.

"In general, students who initially applied to a school but didn’t get in and are automatically added to its waitlist should be ranked ahead of students who add themselves later on, officials said. But there are exceptions.

"The first major exception is if a student is in a higher priority group than someone who is already on the waitlist. Some schools, for instance, give preference to students who live in certain neighborhoods, which can override a student’s position on the waitlist even if they were added first. (Officials said this is the most common reason a student would see their position worsen.)

"Olga Ramos, the admissions director at Bard High School Early College Queens, pointed to a second reason families can move backward — something that surprised her at first.

"If a student got into their first choice school, and listed Bard as their second choice, they could still add themselves to Bard’s waitlist and be considered as if they had been automatically added — potentially bypassing students who were already on the list."

Here's an earlier story in Chalkbeat by Mr. Zimmerman, indicating that the system was still pretty opaque as the school choice process got ready to announce admissions in March:

NYC high school offers are coming this week with a big change: waitlists. Here’s what you should know.  By Alex Zimmerman  Mar 18, 2020

Here's what was known then...

"What are these waitlists, anyway?
"New York City students must apply to high school, listing up to 12 schools they want to attend. A complicated algorithm, developed by a Nobel prize-winning economist, then matches a student to one of their choices.
"That fundamental algorithm is not changing. But for the first time this year, any student who does not get into their first choice school will automatically be added to the waitlist of every single higher-ranked school they didn’t get into.
"Every school that has more applicants than seats will have a waitlist. It’s a similar model that the education department uses for pre-K, kindergarten, and middle schools — something education department officials said is an advantage."
Here's a story from the time of the initial announcement:

Goodbye round two applications, hello waitlists: NYC announces changes to high school admissions
By Christina Veiga and Alex Zimmerman   Aug 15, 2019

"Starting next year, the city will allow students to sit on waiting lists for schools they wanted to attend, but didn’t get into. The city is also eliminating the second round of admissions, which it now uses to for students who aren’t matched to a school they applied to during the typical process.
"“It’s like going to a store and getting the ticket, you know what number you are, and you know how many folks are ahead of you, and you’ll be able to watch the process go,” said Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack. “You’ll also be able to talk with an administrator in a school who can give you a sense of how much waitlists move each year and that varies a bit by school.”

I'm still confused about a different issue that I haven't yet seen addressed. In the original school choice system using the deferred acceptance algorithm, there was a second round in which students unmatched in the first round were asked for additional preferences over schools, so that they could be matched.  How were those unmatched students assigned to schools this year?

Here's my August post:

Friday, August 16, 2019 

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