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On Parenting
Posted at 12:10 PM ET, 09/10/2012

How to fix the September Shuffle?

The September Shuffle has become a dreaded ritual for Washington parents at this time of year. That’s the post-last-minute school roster changes that open classroom seats in more desirable public schools, presenting parents with a stressful dilemma: Whether to chuck all that summer logistical planning and emotional prep, swallow all the first-days-of-school jitters and pull a child out of a school to jump into a “better” school.

The Post’s Emma Brown wrote about the stressful shuffle in today’s Post.

She explained how it’s a product of the profusion of choice (some disgruntled parents call it the “illusion” of choice) in the District as more charter schools open and certain D.C. public schools change curriculum and earn better reputations. At the same time, more families are shopping for what they consider the best public education.

One of the biggest problems with the current system is that families can, and often do, hold seats in more than one school. Their last-minute decisions on which schools to enroll in create a domino effect as school officials only get a firm grasp of enrollment when the semester starts.

After the first week of school, officials across the city sprint to fill seats and parents end up switching schools, creating familial chaos and opening yet another seat in the discarded school.

“It’s terrible for schools, and it’s terrible for parents. I think it doesn’t have to be anywhere near this bad,” Scott Pearson, executive director of the charter school board, told Brown.

But no school official wants to be the first to impose order lest the idea of “school choice” be eroded.

Some parents are not so leery. A discussion on the web forum DC Urban Moms & Dads broke out on the subject this past weekend. Here are a few of the suggested fixes:

“What if people were required to put down a refundable deposit for their place, say $100 which they lost if they pulled their child after a certain date. Could be waived for families that meet [income requirements],” wrote one poster.

Or

“It might be more realistic to address the current chaos by reducing the number of DCPS out-of-boundary lottery picks,” wrote another poster.

“… And to require a ‘use it or lose it’ intent to enroll deadline...” suggested another.

Or

“This could be fixed by DCPS requiring schools to check enrollment data to see if children are enrolled at multiple spots including charters.

“If schools were required to do this in early June, they would be able to identify situations where someone had more than one spot — and they could flag these children for the schools. The school has incentive to make the family make a decision — so they are not redoing class lists, calling families to fill spots the 1st week of school etc,” offered another.

There are also parents, however, who would rather live with the devil they know.

One, for instance, posted that she pulled her son from a popular charter three weeks after school started because she got a call from her top DCPS choice. It was stressful, she said, but worth it.

“It is not a perfect system and any effort to limit the number of enrollment spots any child can hold to one would be a good move, but I’d much prefer to maintain the level of choice we now have than diminish that.”

What do you think of the current public school enrollment situation in the District?

How might you improve it?

Related Content:

D.C. public schools: Lottery results reveal a new set of popular kids

D.C. parents choosing to home-school their children

Should D.C. public schools do away with the lottery?

By  |  12:10 PM ET, 09/10/2012

Tags:  Education

 
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