The Kindergarten Lottery is freaking me out

By Oblivious MaMa

The Big K

Moving to a new city three years ago, I gave up my urban-dwelling instincts in favor of a suburban neighborhood with a good school. Down the street just two short blocks away from our 1960s ranch-style home, a top-rated elementary school beckoned for our future business. The following year, it even landed in the best-schools issue of the regional city magazine.

But now that my kid is gearing up for the Big K this fall, I’m realizing that this isn’t a straightforward process. We have to apply for kindergarten by the end January. Apply? A friend posted on Facebook that she just dropped off kindergarten applications for three schools and now anxiously awaited the lottery process.  Lottery? For kindergarten? Really?

While the threat of being labeled “Tiger Mom” lingered in my head, I wondered if we should be looking elsewhere as the deadline approached. Does the neighborhood school excel in math and science? Will it help my kid get into the high school of her choice? What if my kid doesn’t get accepted anywhere?! For kindergarten!

And, what now? Our  neighborhood school’s Great Schools rating dropped a point (or two?) in three years?

I don’t usually stress out about, well, anything. Being Oblivious MaMa, I assumed we’d drop our kid off at kindergarten last fall since she would turn 5 in early November. I didn’t know about the October cut-off date. She’d have to wait another year, something I had hoped to avoid after reading “Delay Kindergarten at Your Child’s Peril” in the New York Times. (The local district told us last January that to gain early entry, my then-4.25 year old needed to score in the 90th percentile of kids already in kindergarten.)

I blame my husband for these anxieties. He still holds a grudge against his parents for switching high-schools mid-year to one in a new city with mediocre academics. And he likes to point out that Steve Job’s parents moved the whole family just to be in a better school district. At least that’s one story (there is another).

So, my husband and I went to our first kindergarten parent-information meeting last night. “An academic kindergarten,” said the principal of a nearby charter school. Segmented reading groups “because there are definitely readers in kindergarten.” A balance of daily extras — art, music, computers and PE. Uniforms. And extended kindergarten for a fee. Excellent! Sign me up!

But alas, there is a lottery. And siblings already attending the school plus staff offspring get first dibs, leaving only half of 50 spots open to us unfavorables. As of last night, the lottery list had over 200 people.

At least the kindergarten pressure here in Denver isn’t as outrageous as some cities. One San Francisco mom blogger blasted the lottery system, where parents pick seven schools and most don’t get into their favorite so they move or pony up for private. One New York mom, whose son had “gone to a prestigious nursery school and scored in the top percentile” on a standardized test gotSource: Oblivious MaMa  

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