Thursday, October 31, 2013

School choice in Washington DC: some schools jockey for position before the start...

Here's some news on charter schools joining the new DC school choice system, or not...

Some charters opt out of unified enrollment lottery

"All DCPS schools and most charter schools have agreed to a common enrollment lottery that will take effect for school year 2014-15. The new process will cut down on duplicate applications and student reshuffling at the beginning of the year. Why, then, have some charters opted not to participate?

"For years now, observers of the DC education scene have been calling for a unified enrollment process, either for all charter schools or for both charters and DCPS schools. The benefits seem clear: parents will be able to file a single application and rank schools in the order of their preference. Schools will no longer find students leaving in September as they get into other schools off waiting lists, or simply decide they would be happier at another school where they also secured a spot.

"But when the deadline for joining the common lottery arrived at the end of September, a dozen charter schools were missing from the list. The charters who are participating account for nearly 90% of charter slots, but the ones who opted out include some highly sought-after schools, such as Washington Yu Ying and Latin American Montessori Bilingual (LAMB). Clearly, some parents will continue to apply to those schools separately, in addition to or instead of applying through the common process.
"Patricia Ragland, the enrollment coordinator at Tree of Life PCS in Ward 5, said the school draws many of its students by word-of-mouth or because their siblings are already enrolled. The school's executive director decided not to participate in the unified lottery because it would have made it easier for families to find other options, Ragland said.
"As for LAMB, a Tier 1 school in Ward 4, its Executive Director, Diane Cottman, said in an email that the school is "hesitant to join a system that has not yet been finalized."

"With a more cautious approach," she wrote, "LAMB hopes to avoid the uncertainty that comes with a work in progress."

But, as project manager Bhat points out, DC is not the first city to implement a unified enrollment lottery. Denver and New Orleans have had similar programs in place for several years, and New York has instituted a common application system. And the same company that designed all three of those systems, the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice, is designing the one in DC. Newark and Philadelphia are also working on plans for common lotteries."

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