Getting into a good grade school in LA

There are good public elementary schools in Los Angeles Unified, writes Leslee Komaiko. But for parents who can’t afford to buy or rent near a desirable school, getting your kid into a good grade school is a mind-bending game. The savvy parent looks for ways to amass points in the district’s assignment system.

What you’d be looking for is a house in an area with a crummy home school, a school that’s overcrowded, without enough books and desks. That gives you points. So does a PHBAO home school. No, that’s not one that serves PH-balanced pork-filled dumplings to its charges. It stands for “predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian or other.” (Never mind that every school is predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian or other. Hello, LAUSD — “other” means everyone else.)

Submit your application to your desired school the winter before your child can begin kindergarten. If you’re applying for next fall, you’ve just missed the Dec. 16 deadline.

Of course, parents should find out which race or ethnicity is underrepresented at the school of choice to figure out how to identify their mixed-race child.  (Or your child who’s 1/16 Cherokee. There are a lot of “Native Americans” in school districts with similar systems.)

A kindergarten rejection earns points for the following year.

And of course if the magnet (or program) of your dreams doesn’t start until first grade, what you want is a kindergarten rejection. So study the numbers carefully in the Choices guide, which has moved online this year and which should really be called the You Wish guide. It will reveal the schools that are most in demand, the ones that therefore have the stinkiest odds. That’s where you should apply to kindergarten, because remember, rejection and thus points are the goal here.

It’s good practice for college applications.

Los Angeles Unified will let groups led by teachers and administrators run low-performing and new schools with charter-like independence, but charter operators will be excluded from the choice program for three years. Few charter organizations have been granted control of schools under the existing program.



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  1. “What you’d be looking for is a house in an area with a crummy home school, a school that’s overcrowded, without enough books and desks.”

    Isn’t there a risk here that you get the house in a district with the horrible school and then don’t have enough points to flee that school? So now the kid is going to that crummy home school that is overcrowded and without enough books and desks?

    This strategy seems like a double-or-nothing bet.

  2. The whole game/process sounds byzantine. No thankyew.

  3. Mark, it’s as you suspect, and probably worse. Once you’re in LAUSD, if your home school is overcrowded, LAUSD can bus your child *wherever they want*. LAUSD is awfully big.

    The idea seems to be that points accrue over the years, so by nth grade, you’ll have enough points to escape–so you are actually hoping not to get in early, but wait until you have enough points to go where you want. The gifted magnets work this way, too, and they don’t start until grade 3 or above, and that is gamed .

    Of course, living somewhere with a bad home school probably means you’re living somewhere with other problems as well.

    But the author was flat wrong when she said this: “If money is no object, move — simply purchase or rent a home near your desired school.”

    No, that is not enough. Moving into the desired school boundary does not guarantee you entrance there. Some of these schools are oversubscribed and you will be sent elsewhere. Some of them don’t even have sibling preference–best know that before you shell out 1.4M.

  4. Doesn’t anyone want to play devil’s advocate here? No explanations, specious or otherwise, for this situation?