Having sat on both sides of the fence as a parent and school manager I can confidently say that there is no single, one-size-fits-all way to allocate children to particular classes. Structuring classes is an inherently complex task and in my experience schools rightly take time and act with due care when making decisions.
Decision has to be made behind closed doors
That does not mean they always get it right or that they have perfect systems in place. For many parents the process that leads to their child being allocated to one class rather than another is at best a mystery. School have an important role in demystifying the process by explaining how decisions are made in general. However, teachers are often dealing with sensitive issues around individual children that mean the process can never be completely transparent. In this respect believing that the school is acting in the best interests of every child is crucial.
Trusting parent-school relationships are key
In the end those schools that build relationships based on trust are most likely to make good decisions about structuring classes and less likely to have those decisions challenged by unhappy parents.
Laurie is an education consultant who was a high school teacher/manager, education adviser and national leader of educational technology. More importantly he has two daughters: one at university and the other just graduated.
Teacher's guide to deciding class lists
How USA schools agree on classes