It’s D.C. school lottery day, one of the most anxiety-ridden times of the year for city parents who have spent months crossing their fingers for good luck getting into a good school.
More than 17,000 students entered the lottery this year, which for the first time this year included all traditional schools and most charter schools. Parents were allowed to rank up to 12 schools in order of preference, and a computer algorithm — similar to the algorithm used to match doctors-in-training to medical residencies — matched families to open spots.
About 71 percent of families matched with one of their choices, according to data released Monday by Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith. Of those who matched, 85 percent got one of their top three choices. Here is the first set of data released by Smith’s office:
So there were plenty of lottery winners. But there were also plenty of folks who are feeling like they lost: the 29 percent who didn’t match any schools, and other families who got into one of their last-choice schools.
D.C. residents who are in kindergarten or older have a right to attend their assigned neighborhood school without entering the lottery. But children are not guaranteed a seat before kindergarten, so while preschoolers who don’t match a school now might eventually get into a school where they’re waitlisted, they are not guaranteed admission anywhere.
“To say that we have a school choice system is not true because we don’t have enough spaces at high-quality schools to give people true choice,” said one mother, who said she’s trying to feel grateful that her child got in somewhere, even though it was No. 7 on her list. “Hopefully most people will be happy at the end of it — but as a parent, it doesn’t feel like I’m making a choice. It feels like I’m taking a chance with my child’s education.”
A full story on the lottery is on the way. Meanwhile, one more data set: a comparison of the lottery entrants from each ward vs. number of students from each ward shows that that families from across the city participated in the lottery, although participation was slightly lower than enrollment in wards 7 and 8.