An unprecedented number of families applied to the D.C, Public Schools lottery this year, suggesting that demand for a school seat continues to grow, and so does the gap between the number of families who want a seat in the District’s higher performing schools and the number of slots available.
DCPS plans to release the exact numbers later today, but officials have said there were more applications for the Pre-school, Pre-K and Out of Boundary Lottery than last year — a year that was itself record-breaking.
There was also an uptick in how many schools are now considered viable. This year families applied, on average, to three schools per application (each applicant can apply up to six schools). That’s a slight increase from last year.
The second number is especially of interest to DCPS officials, as it suggests that parents are considering a broader range of schools.
For instance, two new elementary schools, Bancroft and Maury, were among the top 10 most popular for lottery applications. They join Peabody, Oyster-Adams Bilingual, Brent, Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, Janney, Murch, Lafayette and Eaton Elementary schools.
Stoddert and Mann Elementary Schools fell out of the top 10, though continued to receive far more applications than there are available slots.
This is mostly good news for DCPS as it suggests parents have more confidence for the higher performing schools and that more schools are being added to that category.
The bad news is that the supply is not keeping up with the demand. More and more young families who want to raise kids in the city can’t find a seat in a school they consider up to par. A look at the results reveals a number of schools with wait lists that stretch into the hundreds.
Several factors have contributed to that change. First, there is an undeniable growing interest in the public schools in general and several individual schools in particular. (Debate among yourselves how much the former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee had to do with it.)
Clearly, the economic implosion also contributed. The downturn left families with fewer choices to move or fund a private education.
The converging trends have resulted in seats at the schools perceived to be the best filled by in-boundary students. That has been true at a handful of schools for several years. Now, it’s true at several more schools. The wait lists there exist in name only — there won’t be any openings for out-of-boundary kids.
That said, wait lists at the schools that have more recently become popular or are considered up-and-comers are inflated. Those lists may be filled with people who received seats in other schools or by people who have little intention of attending. Waiting them out is not as risky as it seems.
The bigger question is: Will frustrated out-of-boundary parents wait out the schools on a more macro-level? Will they delve into work-in-progress schools, or will they give up?
Did you use the lottery? What’s been your experience? Are you going to risk waiting out a wait list, or are you turning to another option?