Monday, March 05, 2007

Let's Start with Lottery Program Questions



The blip on the local news outlets (TV and newspaper) that was the Buist lottery for incoming kindergarteners passed by a week ago, yet comments on my blog continue. In the interest of transparency, Jerry Adams has suggested that I ask questions of him.

I can do that, but I 'm going to do it in the blog.



  1. Is the computer program used for the lottery a simple random number generator or some other type of program? If random, is it truly random or pseudo-random?

  2. Is the computer program "canned" or locally written? How long has it been used?

  3. Are registered applicants for each of the four lists checked for status prior to the lottery?

  4. When are registry numbers assigned to the applicants?

  5. When do the applicants find out what these numbers are ? [I don't mean from the lottery; I mean from registering.]

  6. Who assigns the registry numbers, and how are the registry numbers assigned?

  7. When the lottery program itself is run, who matches the generated numbers with the names on each list? Is it the same person or persons who assign the registry numbers?

  8. What check in the system prevents cheating on matching names with numbers that are generated by the program?

  9. Has an independent auditor ever certified the lottery results?
  10. Has the school district considered having registered applicants sign a waiver so that lottery results may be made public?

Now, I am not asking these questions in order to impugn anyone's integrity.

However, unless questions such as these are answered straightforwardly, those who believe the process is being manipulated will continue to believe so.

Next installment: testing questions

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'll get the answers together and be back in touch. will have something by wednesay at the latest. want to be sure the answers are correct. then we'll move on to testing questions. JA

Anonymous said...

Amazing! So you have to have a blog for CCSD to answer your questions? We had no idea that this was the preferred method of communication. Parents in Charleston County have been ignored for years. JA himself is known for never returning phone calls.

Anonymous said...

How can an incoming sibling of a false address student be #9 on the Countywide list AND #9 on the sibling list? Did my sources receive incorrect information? Smells pretty fishy to me...

Anonymous said...

There is a fail safe way of doing the lottery. You publish the numbers before the lottery and use the old fashioned bubble lottery. Isn't that what they use for Powerball?

The names have always been called out publicly so why are the older waiting lists a CCSD secret? Could it be that the waiting list is not used at all? How would anyone know?

How is privacy being violated? No one is forced to apply for Buist. Everyone has a school they are zoned for. In fact, if the Post and Courier story from last summer is accurate most of the fake address crowd lives in Mt. Pleasant, Sullivan's Island and Folly Beach. Those areas are all are zoned for great schools. Everyone that used a fake downtown address over the years took a spot from a child that is zoned for a school with a failing rating. In fact they doubled their chances of getting into Buist by also qualifying for the failing schools list with their fake addresses.

Anonymous said...

JA here. Many of these ongoing comments are based on folks' genuine beliefs, but built on rumor or myth, but perception does become reality. I ALWAYS return phone calls -- because every conversation helps me better understand what's on people's minds. i generally answer my own phone and get calls at all hours from all sorts of people. again, my email address is jerry_adams@charleston.k12.sc.us and my phone is 937-6305. despite the criticisms, i like all of the people I deal with with very few exceptions and i appreciate their passion for their children and education.

Anonymous said...

I'm just curious...does JA stand for Johnny Appleseed?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adams I'm sure you are a person with good intentions and maybe you have resolved in the new year to respond better to parents. I however have first hand experience with you not returning several calls I made to you last spring. I hope it's a new era for communication. We'll see!

downtown parent said...

And what about the students who have been dismissed from Buist because their average dropped below 85%? Some were encouraged by the principal of Buist to appeal while others were not told they had that right. How come?

Anonymous said...

Q. Is the computer program used for the lottery a simple random number generator or some other type of program?
A. The computer program generates random numbers.
Q. If random, is it truly random or pseudo-random?
A. It is random.
Q. Is the computer program "canned" or locally written?
A. The program is “canned.” It is called SAS, which stands for Statistical Analysis System. More information is available at the SAS website, which is http://www.sas.com/index.html. The procedure we use is called “PROC PLAN” and is referenced in the SAS/STAT User’s Guide, Volume 2, Version 6, Fourth Edition.
Q. How long has it been used?
A. As long as there has been a lottery for Buist. This program also is used for other CCSD schools that require a lottery for admissions, that is, St. Andrews Elementary, Charlestowne Academy, and Garrett Academy.
Q. Are registered applicants for each of the four lists checked for their status prior to the lottery?
A. Applicants are checked, but verification is done prior to enrollment. It is easy to delete students from the list if there are problems with residency.
The children’s names are placed on the appropriate lists, with their addresses used to determine the proper lists. For instance, the constituent district will verify that an address is in the attendance zone for a low-performing school, or whether the applicant’s address is in District 20, which is one of the four lists. Residential address verification comes later in the process, after a child has been tested and academically approved for entry into the school. School Board policy now requires an affidavit that the address is the applicant’s primary residence.
Q. When are registry numbers assigned to the applicants?
A. I will define registry to means refers to the official list of applicants. The applicants are put on the appropriate list(s) in the order in which their applications are received. For instance, the 227 countywide applicants for the 2007-08 kindergarten class were numbered 1 through 227 with the order number assigned according to when the application was received. The 31 applicants from District 20 were assigned 1 through 31 using this same process, that is, they are added to the list as they are received. The process also is used for the sibling list and for the list of applicants from low-performing schools.

Q. When do the applicants find out what these numbers are?
A. There is no reason to give them this number.
Q. Who assigns the registry numbers, and how are the registry numbers assigned.
A. Either the CCSD director of assessment and accountability or her administrative assistant enters the names into an Access database when that office receives the applications.
Q. When the lottery program itself is run, who matches the generated numbers with the names on each list? Is it the same person or persons who assign the registry numbers?
A. Once the random numbers are generated, a neutral party, in this case, St. Andrews Elementary assistant principal Kelly Heath called out the numbers from the randomly generated list in order and the administrative assistant announced the name of the applicant whose name corresponded with name on the registry.
For instance, the District 20 list contained 31 names, so the computer program randomly sorted numbers 1 through 31. If the first number on that randomly generated list was 25, the applicant No. 25 on the list of applicants was given the No. 1 slot on the list. That process continued through all 31 numbers. The same process was used for each list.
Q. What check in the system prevents cheating on matching names with numbers that are generated by the program?
A. This lottery was conducted before an audience and the news media in the Board Room at 75 Calhoun Street. Dr. Janet Rose, CCSD Director of Assessment and Accountability, conducted the lottery and explained the process. The drawing and matching of names was witnessed and monitored by Mr. Henry Copeland from the Constituent District 20 Board and by Ms. Joan Dehne of the League of Women Voters.
Q. Has an independent auditor ever certified the lottery results?
A. No, but we would welcome an outside auditor to verify the process.
Q. Has the school district considered having registered applicants sign a waiver so that lottery results may be made public?
A. No. Federal and state privacy laws protect many forms of personal information and we could not require people to waive those rights (or the names and privacy of their children) to apply for admission to one of our schools.

(Jerry Adams, CCSD Director of Communications, and Dr. Janet Rose, CCSD Director of Assessment and Accountability, prepared these responses.)

Anonymous said...

This letter was in the Newsless Courier today:



Buist controversy

The entire Buist admissions catastrophe has left me ashamed for the Charleston County School District and for the school's administration. The lottery system is nothing short of a travesty. There is not a citizen of Charleston, let alone South Carolina, who would buy a lottery ticket if randomness were not assured.

Not a single denizen of the planet Earth would tolerate a computer-generated lottery result; their suspicions would be well-founded and the results would forever be in doubt. An antiquated bingo ball machine would at least allay fears of malfeasance or manipulation.

If the system has nothing to hide, what could be the reticence to a more transparent drawing? The lottery should have been patently fair from its inception.

We all know the difficulty in gaining admission to this school, the lottery notwithstanding. So why have there been 11 openings for this vaunted institution for nearly six months - granted, they are in the upper grades? It's my understanding that the headmistress has not filled the openings because her "system" hasn't yet found any students for the slots. Could anything sound so feckless? I have no doubt there are scores of parents who would gladly move schools in mid-year given the chance to attend Buist and perhaps forgo a few years of private school tuition.

So much controversy over such an excellent school is unwarranted and embarrassing. If there's nothing to hide, why not make the relatively simple effort of mandating some transparency - better yet, a lot of transparency. It would make the community feel more comfortable with the administration of Buist and the entire system.

The pot has started to boil, in Dist. 20 particularly, so take action now before the top blows off.


Bruce W. Smith

8 George St.

Anonymous said...

They have manipulated this Buist game for so long, like many others within CCSD's upper management, Jerry Adams and Janet Rose don't even see the idiocy of their own actions anymore. Not only do they not recognized that there is a problem with the same people handling different parts of the same lottery, they fail to see that a subordinate of Janet Rose or an employee of CCSD is not a neutral party. As for witnesses or outside monitors they had none. A couple of individuals who simply were present could not be defined as informed witnesses much less effective monitors. Nothing changed between the 2006 lottery and the one held last month except the size of the room. The system is so flawed and CCSD officials so accustomed to doing things without being questioned there is no way this Buist lottery could be considered anything but terribly flawed. The fact that a county school board member's child was selected in the top ten of at least one list during this lottery may explain why no county board member interceded on behalf of those who raised objections that the lottery still looks rigged. JA even says that lottery applicants were not even vetted for correct addresses. What about CCSD's claim that the application process has been improved for address verifications? It is being reported that fake addresses are still being used. Just like the lottery it seems the address verification process is managed by the same people. There is no system in place to truly certify the addresses or even to verify those who oversee this process either. The testing system has been shown to be misused and it is overseen by the same people, too. Now a new question has been brought forward involving students being asked to leave Buist for academic reasons. Are the same people managing this process? What's to say exceptions are being made for students whose parents are "team players" at Buist while those that aren't favored are simply asked to leave? Will JA answer these questions?

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Answer this question: would you buy lottery tickets if it wasn't announced on the lottery program on TV that it was audited by independent agency? Not unless you were stone dumb.

Anyone can show up in front of the witnesses with a piece of paper with supposedly randomly-generated numbers... oldest trick in the books, folks!

When Mr. Adams says that he "would welcome an outside auditor to verify the process." that's the only meat here... someone needs to FORCE them to do this, pronto. Then the truth will come out...!