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D.C. charter schools try to simplify application process for parents

The rise of charter schools means D.C. parents have more public education options than ever, but it can be overwhelming to navigate the system.

Until now, for example, each of the city’s 57 charter schools has had its own application deadline and lottery day, a fact that drives many parents — especially those applying to scads of schools — nuts.

The D.C. Public Charter School Board recognizes that keeping track of all those disparate dates can be dizzying. So for the first time, the board is encouraging schools to use a common application deadline (March 15, 2013) and lottery date (March 22, 2013).

Most but not all schools have opted to do so, said Scott Pearson, the charter board’s executive director.

“We want to simply the process as much as possible for parents,” he said.

The common dates were set with an eye toward giving families time to apply for charters after they find out how they fared in the D.C. Public Schools out-of-boundary lottery. Those results are expected to be reported during the week of March 4; families who win DCPS seats must claim them by April 1.

Pearson said a next step in simplifying school choice in the city will be making sure that parents can find everything they need to know about a charter school — including real-time information about available seats and wait-list lengths — on one user-friendly Web site.

The charter board is also convening a task force this fall to brainstorm ways to fix the wait-list shuffle, in which thousands of seats change hands during the first month of school.

“I think there is a lot of work we can do collaboratively with our schools to make the situation not only better for parents but also for schools,” Pearson said.

This post has been updated to clarify that not all charter schools are planning to use the common application timeline.

Related: Parents struggle with ‘wait-list’ shuffle in D.C. schools

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