Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hot topic: Pairwise substitution of students

This from a reader:
Has anyone attempted to ask the district (or the schools directly) to do a pairwise substitution of students? If two families would like to switch assignments, is there a chance to make this happen? Considering how non-optimal the lottery result is for many families, it's hard to imagine that there are no such permutations that would be a win-win. We live next to a school and didn't get it but got assigned to another with a similar level of "desirability" (yeah, I know, there is no absolute index of "desirability"). I can't help thinking that there is another family who lives next to that school and may have been assigned to "ours". Rather than having the two families deal with years of commuting, it would be nice to switch if both agree.

If anyone has any experience with this and there is a chance of it happening, I might try to work on some way (e.g. a simple web site) for any family to find such potential win-win substitutions.

21 comments:

  1. Personally, I think the district might be concerned that substitutions might occur as a result of the highest bidder (can't you see it, a Clarendon spot for $20K easily). It just muddies up the process.

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  2. The new assignment system will use a new choice algorithm that is supposed to do this. Let's say I like school X and you like school Y, but you are assigned to X and me to Y, the system will try to transfer us so we each get what we want.

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  3. oh please 11:44 - you are totally making this up. There is nothing out there surrounding the new algorithm. Personally - I fear the district has no idea what they have gotten themselves into.

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  4. I doubt they'd let you do this. There would be all kinds of fairness issues about giving the spot you give up at your school to your pair partner and not to someone in the waitpool and then vice versa for the other school.
    I do like the idea though. Call EPC and then post and tell us what you find out.

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  5. What 9:00 pm and 7:31 pm said. Your slot at the school is not your property. The waitpool system is the system for allowing shifting of slots into ones more preferred.

    IIRC, the new system is supposed to be more "efficient" in terms of matching . As the Stanford academics doing pro-bono work for the district also designed the much-praised medical residency assignment system, I feel fairly confident it'll work more as advertised.

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  6. The first comment (9:00PM) is a good one. Not necessarily something that would really happen (though I'm not sure), but an easy justification for the district to close the door on this rather than admit how un-optimal the current results are and work on ways to improve them at the periphery.

    To those who bring up the topic of next year's assignment system, I guess we'll see. But for now there is a whole new set of assignments for 2010 and it would be nice to improve them in a win-win way. The new assignment system is a distraction in this context.

    WRT to the question of fairness to those on waiting list, I think the concern is unfounded. This should not make things any worse for those in waiting list, because the people who would be involved in the switch would not have released their spots anyway. Since they would have no other place to go to unless this switch was arranged.

    There may be hundreds of such deadlock situations all over the assignments and they are going to go unfixed. Families will have to drive to far-away schools for years while this could be avoid by making these switches today.

    One issue that hasn't been brought up in comments is also that of "diversity". That if the kids in the switch are not in the same diversity group, then the switch may lower the diversity index at both schools. But frankly, the results of this diversity approach are such a joke today (if you look at actual enrollment demographics per school) that it would be sad to prevent this win-win switch to proceed that both families want for this reason.

    Plus, the under-represented groups still had the benefit of higher chance of getting into a school in which their group is under-represented. The voluntary switches post-assignment would not kick out anybody who doesn't want to change.

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  7. If you can find a family that would be willing to switch with you to make both parties happy, I'd say go down to 555 and make your pitch. And be darn vocal about it. Take it to the press. It would make a compelling story in the Chronicle, or the New York Times. The wastefulness of the current system needs to be further exposed with real stories of woe .

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  8. The district does not do this. While it may seem simple on an individual level, what would eventually transpire is people auctioning of spots to switch.

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  9. The best point was made earlier: your slot is not your property to trade, sell or switch.

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  10. Hmm... I wonder - Do they look at wait pool lists to see if a swap makes sense? That is, assume that Sally is enrolled at Marshall (or whatever school), and decides to waitlist Peabody. Then Mary is the exact opposite - enrolled at Peabody and waitlists Marshall. Let's assume for now no differences in diversity.

    In the current system, does the EPC seek to swap these people with one another? I think it does not, but seems like an obvious way to "costlessly" get a few more people their preference.

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  11. 3:06
    This is a good idea, but no, EPC does not currently do this. I wonder really how many people this would help. I bet it's not that many. For ex. you are enrolled at New Traditions and waitlisting Grattan. Anybody enrolled at Grattan and waitlisting New Traditions? Probably not.
    And no slight to NT, just picked those based on request numbers and proximity to each other as an ex.

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  12. We got Lafayette but wanted Sunset. (Need the later start time, so we waitlisted Sunset with a snowball's chance in hell of getting it, as we are in the 1/7 cohort.)

    Did anybody out there get Sunset but want Lafayette? Probably not. Just thought I'd ask to see if such a situation does exist. (I'm SURE the EPC has no interest in opening up this Can of Worms, but it is an interesting idea.)

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  13. Not if any of the students in question are white. That would be so unfair.

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  14. I would not assume that Lafayette and New Traditions are not desireable. New Traditions would have had a longer wait list if it wasn't for them opening another kindergarten class next year. I don't know much about Lafayette but I do know families who did not like Sunset. So you never know what the flavor of the month will be or what will rock your world. I think it's an intersting idea but a causes too much chaos.

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  15. 3:06 is right, the district already has the data. In addition passively waiting for spots to open up to fill them w/ waitlist kids, they could also be looking for such win-win substitutions that are in a deadlock situation (won't happen on their own because neither side will release their spot w/o a place to go to).

    And since by going on waitlist you've already agreed that you want to be pulled out of your current assignment if a spot in your waitlist school opens for you, it means the district doesn't have to even ask the parents whether to make the substitution. It just does it and informs the parents that they got their waitlist school. Which means that there is no opportunity for people "selling off" their spots in the process. The only thing that happens is people learning the good news that they got their waitlist school.

    I am missing something or is it just a case of whether the district is willing to do a bit of extra work in order to make families happier with their assignments?

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  16. You are not missing anything. The district has this data, they just don't do it that way. Someone call Jill Tucker! Especially if you can find a pair of people that want to switch assignment school for waitpool.

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  17. Are there any others out there, like 5:33 PM, who are willing to list actual school names for a switch? Having real data in hand makes it easier to make a pitch at EPC about wastefulness of current wait pools.

    Rachel, is BOE willing to encourage EPC to look into wait pools to see if any simple switches, as proposed, will lessen the burden on the system and make 2 families happy instantaneously?

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  18. This would seem like an easy way to make two families happy but I'm afraid making these pair switches would mess up their diversity balances.

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  19. Once we hit open enrollment, the motto is "Come one, come all." They do not use the diversity index after Round 2, and it has no influence during the 10-day count, when there is a mad scramble to fill open spots. The whole thing is rather absurd, really, from this point forward, so it is hard to use diversity index as an excuse not to consider a 1-for-1 switch.

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  20. I thought that even as they got to calling the waiting lists, they called people who balance diversity first (if there are any) and called the non-diverse people only if there's nobody else wanting the spots.

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  21. SFUSD told Vicki from PPS this year that they follow the lotto for Round 2 and subsequent waitpool runs. So yes, they do look at the diversity index through out the summer to assign seats. But my guess is most people on this blog, waitpooling schools they want to switch have no diversity points either. i.e. no section 8, no free lunch, preschhool and english speakers.

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