The skinny on multiples and school assignment

Just got a text from a friend that the parents of multiples list is going nuts with stories about twins, triplets, etc.  assigned to different schools for this round. Not to minimize it — I imagine it’s quite stressful to open letters that assign Twin A to one school and Twin B to another — or no school at all (actually, it’s probably most stressful to find that NEITHER twin has received a school of choice).  Anyway, here’s the skinny.

Earlier in the week, I did receive an inquiry from one family and discussed the issue with EPC.  It’s only in the last day or so that I’ve realized that there seem to be a fair number of families in this situation. I don’t know how many there are or whether there are more than in previous years, but given the worry apparently being expressed on the parents of multiples list, I thought I’d address it here.

Unfortunately, this situation happens every year in Round I.  Several years ago (I don’t know how many) a decision was made that twin/triplet/etc. applicants would go into the assignment round separately.  This decision was made because EPC was finding a high number of muiltiples that were receiving NO assignment at all in the first round because of the lower likelihood of finding two (or three) open seats at schools rather than one.  In other words, attempting to place twins or other sets of multiples as a unit was being found to disadvantage families of multiples as compared to singles. When twins/multiples are processed separately, there is a much higher likelihood that at least one child will receive a school of choice — then the sibling(s) receive sibling priority in later rounds. In the words of one of the officials I talked to this week, multiples are virtually always placed with their siblings before the beginning of school.

I know of only one situation in the past where this did not occur – it was a highly-requested dual-immersion track in a popular school. One English-speaking twin received an assignment to the immersion track but there was no seat available through subsequent rounds for the second English-speaking twin, who was ultimately placed in the school’s GE track for the first day of school.

So why does EPC even ask families to check the Twin box on the form, if they are processing separately? In some cases the system can place a twin via sibling priority if the first twin is placed early enough in the cycle and spaces remain. Obviously, that is everyone’s preference — to place twins together at a school of choice during the first round so that there is no need for a family to re-apply. Unfortunately, as I said, this doesn’t always happen.

If you are a parent of twins/triplets and your children were not placed together, you should consult EPC about your options going forward. My advice to the family I spoke with last week was to accept both spots, then reapply for the twin who did not receive your higher choice. The reason to accept the spot you don’t want is simply for peace of mind during the period of time you are waiting for Twin B to be placed with his or her sibling — accepting it does not harm your chances for placing your children together.

If neither of your children were placed at a school of choice, you have an admittedly more difficult decision to make. Again, I would go to EPC to discuss your options in detail with a counselor, as you will want to reassess the likelihood of placing your children together at the higher-demand schools on your list.  If any/all/some combination of the top 15 demanded schools were on your original list, I would strongly advise looking for some additional options. It will probably be very unlikely to have two twins placed together at Clarendon or Alvarado or Sherman in subsequent rounds, though stranger things have happened.

There is always movement between March and the first day of school, so families worrying about twin/multiple assignments, should be reasonably confident that things will work out.  Of course, I can’t guarantee they will in every imaginable situation, so it’s good to have a backup option just in case. I also know that in situations where a family faces a legitimate hardship based on their school assignment, EPC is happy to work with you to find better options.


11 responses to “The skinny on multiples and school assignment

  1. Rachel: Ah, I understand now, and I agree with your viewpoint. Twins shouldn’t get advantage until a seat is chosen for one of them, then the sibling factor should “kick in”. It is too bad that it might take multiple rounds to accomplish it, but so it goes.


  2. You say every parent buys one lottery ticket for each child to be fair but actually not all lottery tickets are the same. You GIVE some parents a special lottery ticket that comes with special advantages. So actually my lottery ticket that I bought is not the same as someone else’s lottery ticket that you gave them. My question is why do twins living in the mission get a special ticket but my twins that live in Richmond do not. We attend the same play groups, go to the same gated parks, belong to the same twins club and share advice, clothing, etc.

    The system is not even close to being fair by any means! It should not be compared to a legitimate lottery.

  3. @bldxyz I’ll try one more time. The best analogy I can think of is a lottery ticket: parents of singletons buy one ticket for one seat. Originally, when twins/multiples were processed as one unit, parents were issued one ticket for all of their children. Now, by processing multiples separately, parents are issued one ticket per child. More tickets = more chances at a seat. If one ticket “hits,” the related tickets then have sibling priority. Sometimes it’s possible to reassign twins right in the middle of the run, so that the sibling priority kicks in right away, but if that is not possible you have the situation where siblings are initially placed at different schools and the sibling priority kicks in at the next run.
    It’s true that families with an older sibling at a school have sibling priority right off the bat, but other than giving twins priority immediately upon entering the lottery, I don’t know any way to fix the “sibling priority kicks in later” situation. And I’m not comfortable with the idea of giving twins immediate priority for whatever seats their families want right off the bat. To me, it’s fairer to give every child — singleton or multiples — the same “chance” at a seat and then allow sibling priority to kick in to place families together. As I noted in my post, sibling priority almost always accomplishes the goal of placing twins/multiples together at the same school before school starts.

  4. Hi Rachel…

    I’m not clear on the meaning of John’s question and your response to it. What does it mean to have twins enter “as one unit”, and what does it mean that twins get “two tries at one school in Round I”? And further, how does that relate to the issue of twins being assigned to separate schools?

    I’m also unclear on what it would be to “inappropriately advantage parents of multiples” as well as “the system seeks to HELP families of multiples”. Are you comparing to parents sending their first child to school, or are you comparing to parents sending their sibling children to school? Maybe I have understood incorrectly, but it seems that a subtantial advantage being offered is to the parents of children who already have a child in a given school — and I just don’t understand why that advantage is somehow not given to the second child in a twin/triplet situation.

    Just not clear, I guess! 🙂

  5. My twins got separate assignments for middle school. One was placed in
    a desired school, the other was assigned to a struggling school which has horrible API scores, little parent involvement, and is clear across town from the
    school we asked for. I’m afraid they will offer us two spots in the bad school.
    I will not send either of my children to the school ranked 1 out of 10.
    I can not afford private school. Is there any advantage to registering for a school where I will never send my child . There almost is not a school I would like less.

  6. @John thank you. That is exactly right. As it stands now, families of twins actually get a slight advantage (two tries at a school in Round I instead of one) but sometimes have to wait until later rounds to fully realize that advantage.

  7. Wai, as I understand from Rachel’s post, if the twin enters as one unit, then they get one chance in the lottery instead of two. Thus reducing the chance of any placement by 50%.

  8. @brent and @wai – as I understand it, the system seeks to HELP families of multiples, which generally face a dis-advantage in accessing systems that are set up for one child. At the same time we don’t want to inappropriately advantage families of multiples. In any event, the “process twins separately for Round I” situation has been going on far longer than the new assignment system. it is not new to this year.

  9. I guess I’m happy that I didn’t face this situation this year. I cannot imagine how stressful it would be to have two different assignments for my twins who are clearly not ready to be apart, and then have to face the situation that they might not be in the same school come September. I don’t even know how I would begin such a conversation with my kids, let alone how we’d be able to manage the drop-off and pick-up and two different schools and still be gainfully employed should things not work out by the end of summer.

    Perhaps you can shed light on the logic for why twins are not treated the same way as siblings entering school during different years (or, perhaps you can assure me that they are, in fact, the same). It would seem to me that as soon as you assign Twin A to a school, Twin B should have the same priority that Sibling B would have.

    Parents of multiples face so many challenges just getting their children to the point when they can enter school, it seems rather strange that the system would deal one more disadvantage their way.

  10. I’m not convinced. Why is it more difficult to fill twins? If you have 20 spots available, let the twin take 2 seats at once. The only time this is an issue is if the twin gets the 20th seat. That’s 5% probability. Even then, could you not make an exception to add one more seat for the twin? Chances are the extra seat might not even turn out to be necessary if any one of the 19 students decided not to enroll. Give the parent the option to file 2 applications if they are so inclined. My bet is 99% of them will file one applications.

    The currently situation is untenable. I don’t see anyone has anything to gain.

  11. Thanks for the info, Rachel. Count us in this boat for middle school!