It was another big year for the DCPS preschool, pre-K and K-12 out-of-boundary lottery, with applications up nearly 10 percent over 2011. School officials said the trend continues to be driven by strong demand for early childhood programs. More than half of the 7,299 lottery applications were for seats in preschool and pre-K.

“We expect interest in our schools will continue to grow as we continue to strengthen our academic programming and instruction and improve the quality of our schools buildings,” Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement Friday.

Overall, a little more than half of all lottery applicants were placed in one of their requested schools. Two-thirds of preschool and pre-K families were offered seats, school officials said.

What’s not clear is whether the increased interest in the lottery means that DCPS is actually capturing a larger share of the public school “market.” While mini-baby booms have hit some city neighborhoods over the past few years, DCPS’ share of the school-age population has stayed constant since FY 2008 at 33.8, according to the Public Education Finance Reform Commission.

And while DCPS touts the popularity of its out-of-boundary lottery as an exemplar of school choice and mobility, critics have said it also reflects the dearth of in-boundary options east of Rock Creek Park. Parents and community leaders are concerned that as neighborhood public school seats west of the park grow more desirable, opportunities will erode.

As my colleague Janice D’Arcy recently reported, two new elementary schools, Bancroft and Maury, have cracked the top 10 most popular lottery destinations: Peabody, Oyster-Adams Bilingual, Brent, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, Janney, Murch, Lafayette and Eaton Elementary schools.

Stoddert and Mann Elementary Schools slipped out of the top 10, but continued to receive far more applications than there are available slots.