How to navigate the Pinellas school choice lottery

Trying to get into a Pinellas County magnet program, fundamental school or career academy can be a game of chance, depending on how popular the program is. The application period for the 2018-19 school year runs from Jan. 10-19. After that, a computer lottery system sorts out who gets into the programs that have more applicants than available seats. [Times files]
Trying to get into a Pinellas County magnet program, fundamental school or career academy can be a game of chance, depending on how popular the program is. The application period for the 2018-19 school year runs from Jan. 10-19. After that, a computer lottery system sorts out who gets into the programs that have more applicants than available seats. [Times files]
Published January 3
Updated January 5

Use this spreadsheet or the tables below to help decide which five programs to list in order of preference when applying for a Pinellas County magnet, fundamental or career program for 2018-19. The numbers can help you gauge your childís chances of getting an invitation.

The columns compare the number of applications for each program over the previous two years. They also list the number of invitations given and accepted during the last application cycle in early 2017. The more competitive programs generally have many more applications than invitations.

RELATED: Planning to apply for a Pinellas school Ďchoiceí program? The time has come

How should you make your list of five choices if you want to get into a competitive program? Thatís a great question with no easy answer. Itís one reason they call it a lottery.

Here are some strategies and thoughts to consider during the Jan. 10-19 application period:

Reaching for the stars

Put your top choice as your first pick ó even if itís one of the most coveted programs in the district, such as Osceola Fundamental High or Perkins Elementary. Many families have won seats this way. In 2016, for example, 78 percent of the 7,237 applications for entry level seats resulted in an invitation to the program listed as the first choice. Still, consider making a less competitive school your second choice, because your second through fifth choices donít carry as much weight as your first one.

Making a safer play

Some have had success with making a less competitive but acceptable school their No. 1 choice. While you may miss out on hitting the jackpot, you increase your chances of at least winning a spot.

Playing all your cards

You could spend all of your picks on five very competitive programs, but you stand a good chance of getting no invitation at all. Again, remember that your second through fifth choices donít carry as much weight as your first one. The lower on your list you go, the harder it is to get into programs that everyone else is trying for, too.

Crunching the numbers

To help gauge how competitive a program is, look at whether the number of applications has increased year to year and compare application numbers among programs. Keep in mind that your "priority status" only applies to your first choice. (Students get priority by having a parent employed at the school, by having a sibling at a school or by living nearby. Students in elementary fundamental schools also get priority status at middle and high school fundamental programs.)

Good to know

The best shot to get into competitive programs is at the entry-level grades ó kindergarten, sixth and ninth. Kindergarten is particularly open because most students donít have "priority status." One exception is Sanderlin PreK-8 IB World School, which gives priority to incoming kindergarten students who attended the schoolís prekindergarten program. Other schools, such as Perkins, donít have the same policy.

Fingers crossed

If you donít get an invitation to a special program, itís not over. Students on the waiting list still have a chance to get a seat. And you can stay on a programís waiting list for months, providing you donít accept another invitation. For various reasons, some families decline their invitations, so seats can open up. Before making your final decision, itís worth calling the school to find out how many students typically are pulled from the waiting list each year.

Keep trying

If you didnít get a seat in kindergarten, try again in fourth grade. Floridaís class-size amendment increases the number of students in each class to 22 in fourth grade, up from 18 in the lower grades. That potentially opens up a few more seats. Itís worth calling the school to check.

Contact Thomas C. Tobin at [email protected] Follow @ThomasCTobin.

Pinellas County School Applications 2016/2017

ELEMENTARY SCHOOLSApplied 2016*Applied 2017*Invited 2017Accepted Invitations 2017
Bay Vista Fundamental Elementary421464116108
Center for Advancement Sciences and Technology, Bay Point Elementary26526313570
Center for the Arts and International Studies, Perkins Elem5365418583
Center for Gifted Studies, Ridgecrest Elementary104845952
Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, Gulf Beaches Elementary2072385050
Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, Kings Highway Elementary96935448
Center for Journalism and Multimedia, Melrose Elementary3727272
Center for Mathematics and Engineering, Doug Jamerson Elementary4404969085
Curtis Fundamental Elementary3753419289
International Studies at Mildred Helms Elementary70963833
IB Primary Years Programme, Sanderlin IB World School4394555048
Lakeview Fundamental Elementary3703855353
Madeira Beach Fundamental Elementary (K-5)5306126261
Midtown Academy (K-5)343413
Montessori Academy at Gulfport Elementary12411711737
Pasadena Fundamental Elementary4855137070
Tarpon Springs Fundamental Elementary1741765553

MIDDLE SCHOOLSApplied 2016*Applied 2017*Invited 2017Accepted Invitations 2017
Center for the Arts, John Hopkins Middle **44325417979
Center for Gifted Studies, Dunedin Highland Middle253206170116
Center for Gifted Studies, Morgan Fitzgerald Middle16815510377
Center for Gifted Studies, Thurgood Marshall Middle280305139123
Center for Innovation and Digital Learning, Tyrone Middle28328110065
Center for Journalism and Multimedia, John Hopkins Middle **842544310
Center for Advancement of Sciences and Technology, Bay Point Middle483548147139
Clearwater Fundamental Middle699660281270
East Lake Middle School Academy of Engineering436383133132
IB Middle Years Programme, Sanderline IB World School4124546666
International Studies at John Hopkins Middle7013612422
International Studies at Largo Middle981148925
Leadership Conservatory for the Arts with Pre-AICE Curriculum, Tarpon Springs Middle12413211845
Madeira Beach Fundamental Middle819847227220
Middle Grades Engineering Gateway to Technology, Azalea Middle23121321052
Midtown Academy (6-8) ***38378
Pre-Advanced International Certificate of Education (Pre-AICE), Pinellas Park Middle1801229052
Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle766809189176

HIGH SCHOOLSApplied 2016*Applied 2017*Invited 2017Accepted Invitations 2017
Academy for Aquatic Management / Environmental Technology, Lakewood High74929127
Academy of Architectural Design/Building Ė Architectural Drafting, Dunedin High95808020
Academy of Architectural Design/Building Ė Construction, Dunedin High49616110
Academy of Architectural Design/Building - Electrical, Dunedin High3812912916
Academy of Engineering, East Lake High495504229209
Academy of Entertainment Arts at Dixie Hollins High ****32622918285
Academy of Finance, Northeast High2993098986
Academy of Information Technology, Northeast High2733068776
Automotive Academy Ė Auto Technology, Northeast High1271105529
Business/Economics/Technology Academy (BETA), Gibbs High18019418338
Cambridge Program - Advanced International Certificate of Education, Clearwater High21720920269
Cambridge Program - Advanced International Certificate of Education, (AICE) Dixie Hollins High23824819171
Cambridge Program - Advanced International Certificate of Education, (AICE) Tarpon Springs High15913111828
Career Academy for International Culture and Commerce, Clearwater High18816412745
Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT), Lakewood High344380264108
Center for Computer Technologies, Countryside High18518017964
Center for Construction Technologies, St. Petersburg High1201386736
Center for Culinary Arts, Dixie Hollins High17912312032
Center for Culinary Arts, Northeast High1912155854
Center for Education and Leadership, Seminole High204241182111
Center for Journalism and Multimedia, Lakewood High16114113920
Center for Wellness and Medical Professions, Boca Ciega High523509184154
Center for Wellness and Medical Professions, Palm Harbor University High669670174165
Criminal Justice Academy, Pinellas Park High52447418190
Exploring Careers & Education in Leadership (ExCEL), Largo High317378181135
First Responders program, Pinellas Park High33427716578
Fundamental School-Within-A-School Program, Boca Ciega High435451229146
Fundamental School-Within-A-School Program, Dunedin High20919319352
IB program, Largo High253309195115
IB program, Palm Harbor University High334347202148
IB program, St. Petersburg High442419262162
Institute for Science/Technology/Engineering/Math, Countryside High26523113838
Jacobson Culinary Arts Academy, Tarpon Springs High111848330
Leadership Conservatory for the Arts - Instrumental Music, Tarpon Springs High10710010046
Leadership Conservatory for the Arts - Vocal Music, Tarpon Springs High51454212
Osceola Fundamental High1044992492458
Pinellas County Center for the Arts (PCCA), Gibbs High469249188104
Veterinary Science Academy, Tarpon Springs High19017117158

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