The Washington Post

More details on D.C. school enrollment growth

Charter school enrollment in the District continues to grow quickly while DCPS enrollment appears to be either holding steady or headed for a slight drop, according to raw data released today by the Office for the State Superintendent of Education.

My full story on the numbers — which show that this fall’s charter enrollment has ticked up to 43 percent of the city’s total student population — is here.

The numbers are self-reported by schools Oct. 5 and will be audited by an independent accounting firm. While the raw figures are a good indication of trends, the numbers themselves always change — and sometimes significantly — during that verification process.

Last year, for example, the audit shaved more than a thousand students off DCPS’s enrollment and shrunk the charter sector’s figure by more than 400.

But OSSE officials say they expect this year’s raw numbers to be more accurate than in years past, the result of more training for school leaders, stronger database tools, and a revamped counting process meant to catch and correct discrepancies early on.

Last year, for example, there were more than 3,000 students who were claimed by more than one school on Oct. 5. This year, that number has shrunk to about 500.

“The issues are flagged earlier in the process and resolved before the actual audit takes place, so we don’t have this 3,000 kid number and we’re not sure what happened,” said Marc Caposino, an OSSE spokesman.

Also new this year is a more intensive effort to verify that students actually live in the city. Auditors are examining all students’ residency forms, instead of just a sampling.

The fall enrollment numbers are critical — they determine how much money each school gets. But they’re only a snapshot. They don’t answer important questions about what happens after October 5: Which schools are good at retaining students throughout the year? Which schools are not? How many students leave charter schools mid-year for DCPS and vice versa?

OSSE’s data guru, Jeff Noel, says the agency is getting closer to developing the technological wherewithal it needs to able to answer some of those questions. But he wouldn’t venture a guess as to when hard data would be available.

Meantime, full school-by-school fall enrollment data won’t be available until the audited numbers are published sometime early next year. But the Office for the State Superintendent of Education did release some information today that breaks down enrollment into charter vs. DCPS schools and by grade level.

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


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