Elsie Whitlow Stokes school, a Northeast Washington preschool and elementary charter that teaches classes in two languages, has the longest waiting list of any D.C. charter school, with 1,827 students still hoping to land a slot.
The D.C. Public Charter School Board released waitlist data Tuesday for the 2018-2019 academic year. The data shows that dual language and Montessori-style schools are in high demand. Six of the 10 schools with the longest waiting lists, including Mundo Verde Bilingual and DC Bilingual, are known as dual language schools.
D.C. families apply to charter schools through the school lottery, which is used to assign seats in charter and traditional public schools. Families enter the lottery hoping to secure a seat at their top choice. The lottery, called My School DC, is intended to give families an equal shot at enrolling in a top school, but the waiting lists show that the demand for high-quality schools exceeds the supply.
My School DC received nearly 25,000 applications — a record high — from families interested in attending a charter or a traditional public school that is not their assigned neighborhood campus for the upcoming academic year.
Sixty-four percent of applicants were matched with a traditional public or charter school through the lottery, according to data from My School DC. Families are allowed to rank as many as a dozen schools on their lottery applications. Of those who were matched, 59 percent were offered a seat at their top choice and 84 percent were offered a slot at one of their top three choices.
While the match rates reflect families seeking slots in charter and traditional public schools, D.C. Public Schools has not released school-by-school waiting list data.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education wrote in a news release last month that it expects some waitlisted students to be offered seats this spring and summer.
This year’s match rate dropped slightly from 2017, when 66 percent of families got matched to a school. Students in kindergarten and higher grades who are not matched with a school through the lottery can attend their neighborhood school.
“Waitlists help tell us where the demand is,” said Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board. Nearly half of public school students in the District attend charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated.
The greatest demand continues to be for slots in the lower grades. Latin American Montessori Bilingual had the longest charter waiting list for pre-K3, with 679 3-year-olds waiting to secure a seat.
D.C. International School, a dual language school, had the longest waiting list in the upper grades, with 477 students on the waitlist for sixth grade and 239 in ninth grade. Capital City Public Charter School, KIPP DC and Friendship Public Charter School had waiting lists in high school.
Vanessa Bertelli, executive director of the D.C. Language Immersion Project, an advocacy group pushing to expand the city’s language programs, said the 2018 data shows the significant need for the city to expand dual language offerings.
“It’s particularly frustrating because this has been a trend for the last four years at least,” Bertelli said. “The District is depriving parents and students of what they obviously want.”