[UPDATE] Pre-K FAIL- A letter to the NYC DOE

The letter many parents received from the DOE.

UPDATE: Shortly after sending the letter (below) expressing my frustration with the NYC Pre-K admissions, I was contacted by someone from the DOE who apologized and helped me find a pre-k seat for my son.  They directed me to a new CBO that had just opened in our area. We were able to visit the school and we like the program and the teacher. My son attended his first day at pre-k today, and he said he had a great day.  This experience has given me a new hope in the New York City Public schools.

To Chancellor Walcott and the Office of Early Childhood Education:

As many of my friends and family have received an excellent education from New York City public schools, I have a great deal of respect for its teachers and administrators. But after receiving my second “we are unable to offer you a placement ” letter while trying to enroll my son in a New York City public pre-kindergarten, I cannot express my dismay enough in the New York City Department of Education. We applied to the maximum 12 schools in both round one and round two, all in our district or in the adjoining one (Brooklyn district 15 and 13), and we did not receive placement in any of them. We did not put all our eggs in one basket, hoping to get into one of the more competitive schools, we applied to nearly every school in the area, 24 in all. There is nothing I would have done differently, except put any faith in the NYC Department of Education.

I attended to the information session about New York City pre-kindergarten, so I know that there are more applying students then there are seats, but here are my main complaints with the way Pre-K admissions are handled:

* The DOE says pre-K is where children “develop skills that form the foundation for reading, writing, and mathematics.” You should not tout how important pre-k for a child’s development and then not make it available to one-third of the people applying. (And please do not blame it on budget constraints, if its so important, you should offer only half day slots, but twice as many!)

* In both rejection letters you say “There are still pre-kindergarten seats available at Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).” This is either willfully ignorant or a blatant lie. There are NOT seats available at our local CBOs. Why? Because you send admission notifications so late in the year that the local CBOs are already booked, not to mention any other private pre-ks, even if one could pay the tuition. Some private pre-k schools start this week!

* You should not have a “lottery” system with weighted criteria (sibling, zone, district, borough, etc) and then not be able to explain exactly how that criteria apply to the lottery process. At the information session, I asked exactly what method and from which pool the computer picked from first, as to make an informed choice as to what schools I should consider. No one was able to give me a straight answer. “Just pick the schools that you would like your child to attend” was the answer they parroted. I listened to them and went oh for twenty-four!

* You should not cut pre-kindergarten classes to make room for kindergarten class. Are you going to start cutting kindergarten classes to make room for the extra first graders next year, and the cut first grade classes the year after that, and so on? (Maybe you are hoping an increased drop-out rate will take care of this by high school and the cuts can end there.)

In your own pre-k literature, you state: “What happens in Pre-K matters!” “Our pre-kindergarten program will help prepare your child for school success.”

The only silver lining I can take from this experience is that the New York City Department of Education is so poorly run that those statements are merely platitudes, and my child is not at a severe disadvantage.

I honestly do not know what my son will be doing this fall. I put my faith in the New York City public education system, and it has failed me, and in doing so I have failed my son.