Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School Registration: I'm scratching my head about a few things

Last week was school registration in the Ann Arbor schools, and it left me--and my husband--wondering about a few things.

First of all, the timing of registration is problematic. Registration is in the middle of the day, and there is no evening registration alternative. In addition, the "make-up" day is during the same week as the regular registration. Most people take vacations Saturday to Sunday, and most camps run week-by-week, so: why don't they set the make-up day(s) during the following week, on the theory that if you are out of town on Wednesday you will probably still be out of town on Friday?

Second of all, my daughter (like many of her classmates) came home with a schedule that made no sense. Sure, she was able to laugh about the fact that she was given two sections of the same exact class. She was able to laugh about the fact that she was given two classes during the same class period. And she was able to laugh about the fact that she was given Mandarin Chinese Level 2, despite the fact that a) she's never taken any Mandarin Chinese and b) she didn't have any Chinese class on her list of possible electives.

I admit--I laughed about it too. Until my husband said to me, "Don't they use computers for these things? Can't they program the computer so that it is impossible to assign someone two classes in the same class period? Can't they program the computer so that it is impossible to assign someone two sections of the same exact class?"

Um, good point. Yes, I'm pretty sure they could. If they would.

And while they're at it, if a student has a blank class period, why don't they fill in that period with a class the student requested? If that's not possible, the computer should just leave the space blank! If a class is not on a student's list of possible electives, why does the computer automatically fill in the blank--with a class the student has no interest in taking and possibly no qualifications to take? I think they could probably fix that too, with a little programming.

And really, I don't think it's a lot of programming. If we were to compare the amount of programming time it would take to the alternative (not programming), it would be obvious that the up-front programming time would be worth it. 

Because you might be wondering--what happens when students get these kind of cockamamie schedules? Well, the counselors get hundreds of change requests, and those all have to get dealt with manually. In other words, counselors are spending hundreds of hours on this.

In the meantime, the class counts for those mis-assigned classes are completely wrong.


  1. Amen.
    The farce that is scheduling at AAPS has always had me scratching my head. That said, if they use computers for scheduling, I'd be shocked. At Slauson, I get the impression it's all done by hand because they allow for so many special requests. And it's done differently at the other middle schools.

    Honestly, the whole process is just insanely archaic. The fact that it varies from school to school and that kids and parents need to stand in line for this is outdated, not to mention the inconvenience of having it in the middle of a week day. Why is this not all done online?

    Thanks for post. Sounds like you went thru more than us and I had a kid register at Pioneer only to learn he got into CHS a day later and had to go thru it all again.

  2. After I wrote this, I was remembering that even when I was in high school (>25 years ago), my high school used computers for scheduling during my junior and senior years. As I recall, we got a number for registration and were registered in a certain order, and we put in our requests using a computer-friendly system--maybe cards where each class had a number code, and we filled in the bubbles for our requests? If they coudl do it then, I'm sure they could do it now.

  3. I am somehow comforted that registration is also a disaster in Ann Arbor. Ypsi High School is a complicated school for scheduling (they work around outside programs), but sometimes I wonder what would happen if the students coordinated their schedules between themselves and left the experts out of it!

    - YpsiAnon

  4. Thanks for the laugh, YpsiAnon. At Community High that almost happens, and it works fairly well most of the time. It's really between the kids and the teachers--they get advice from the counselors but the counselors don't do their schedules. Students get a registration # (starting with the seniors) and during their slot, they go from teacher to teacher and get the teachers to "sign their card" allowing them into a certain class at a certain time period. (Say, 4th hour Spanish.) They can also give "overrides" when their classes get full. So the counselors mostly end up working with kids with high numbers (who get closed out of classes) and kids who are enrolled late in school. It's not seamless but it seems to take less time for more satisfaction.