Monday, January 10, 2011

Forum topic: Does anyone have concrete knowledge of how the lottery will work?

This from the forums in the left hand margin--please post your responses here as comments are disabled on this post. The SF K Files is trying to encourage more engagement in the forums, which are able to run themselves....Thanks!

I have seen all kinds of different points of view on this site re: whether there is still room for "strategy" in how you list your school preferences vs. the advice given by Rachel Norton and others that families should just list their schools in order of preference. Seems to me that to cut through the speculation, one only needs to understand the mechanics of the lottery itself. For example:

1) Suppose each school runs its own lottery. They get a list of all of the people who listed their school (in any position). After setting aside sibling / CDC / CTIP slots, they have X spaces left. Then they take everyone who is in the attendance area and randomly assign them a number (the lottery aspect) -- the first X kids picked get a spot, the others don't (and are put in an ranked order on an alternate list). Then they do the same for non-attendance area kids. After every school does this, the district looks at individual kids and sees the various places they have gotten in, and gives them the one they ranked highest. They then disappear from the rolls of the other schools where they were accepted, and those spots go to the next people on the alternate list for that school. And so on. This is what I've pieced together as the likely process from reading various things, but don't have concrete confirmation... but if this is true, then it seems true to say that there truly isn't possible to "game" the system based on how I rank things, and I don't jeopardize my attendance area spot by ranking something else I prefer first.

2) In contrast, suppose there's a city-wide lottery and every student is assigned a number, and they fill schools working their way through all of the students (first at first choices, then at second choices, etc.). In that scenario, if I list my neighborhood school 7th, my odds of getting it would be jeopardized because it might be full with other neighborhood kids by the time they get to the "7th round" of the process. I don't think this approach is the one they're using, nor do I think it would work mechanically given the whole attendance area issue. But something like this would support those saying there is some "strategy" to employ in the ranking.

So, in short -- I think it's something more like the first, which supports what Rachel and others have said (and, frankly, suggests that people who are deeply strategizing on how to rank order are wasting their time b/c the district hasn't sufficiently educated people about the mechanics). But is there anyone on this blog who has some more concrete info, either from listing to the Board meetings or from SFUSD / PPSSF resources etc? I haven't been able to find something definitive online...