DCPS, charter school officials cooperate to tamp down on ‘wait-list shuffle’

August 9, 2013

D.C. charter and D.C. Public Schools officials are for the first time sharing and comparing rosters over the summer, a move they hope will help cut down on the number of students who are enrolled in more than one school.

Officials said that, on average, for every 10 students enrolled in a school, one is enrolled in at least one other school. Some students are enrolled in two schools; others are enrolled in three or four.

Officials shared the enrollment data with school leaders for the first time this week. Previously, schools did not get information about double-enrolled students until after the school year started.

“It’s super helpful,” said Karen Dresden, head of Capital City Public Charter School. “We’re just a lot further ahead of where we were previously.”

The information is meant to help principals reach out to families who are holding on to multiple seats, to gauge their real interest and to perhaps nudge them toward making a commitment.

That could reduce the annual “wait-list shuffle,” in which parents give up extra seats after the first day of school and principals, scrambling to fill their rolls, recruit students already enrolled elsewhere. The cascading effect means thousands of seats change hands in September and early October.

It is not clear what impact the early roster-sharing will have on that movement, said Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. “We hope it’ll be better,” Pearson said.

Parents interested in skipping wait lists altogether can enroll in their neighborhood traditional school or in one of the many charter schools that still have space. The charter board has posted an updated list of more than 1,500 seats available at schools across the city, including several rated high-performing.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
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