School Lottery

My School DC (MSDC) has started to release data and analysis from the 2018 school application lottery. The data show that Ward 6 has some of the public schools in highest demand in the city. According to MSDC the match rate in the lottery for all schools, DCPS and charters, was 64 percent. This is the lowest match rate since the unified lottery started in 2015. Ward 6 had only a 57 percent match rate. For Ward 6 families, this can mean disappointment. The low match rate suggests that families do not have meaningful choice about their children’s schools. 

We need to change that. We need a school system where families feel that they have not just choice, but true options—that there are several schools they feel are a good fit for their child and they can reasonably get access to.

Ward 6 had the second highest number of applications for PK3 of any ward. Only Ward 8, which has many more children, had more. There were 713 more PK3 seats offered in the lottery than there were applicants. This means that every child who applied could have a seat.  But there is a mismatch between what is being offered and what families are looking for. 

Seven of the 10 DCPS schools with the longest PK3 waiting lists are in Ward 6. Four of those waitlists have more than 300 names. More than 300 three year olds whose parents want them to go to each of these schools and cannot. Let that sink in – something wonderful is happening in those schools, something families really want for their kids. But there are not enough spaces to accommodate them. 

This lottery data is useful. It tells us that parents are not finding the kinds of schools they want where they want when they need them for their children. But to know how to respond, we need more information. What do parents want? And how would they like their system of schools to respond? We need to listen to families about what they want for their children. And then we need to ensure we are expanding programs that families are looking for so that they feel they have real choice.  -- 5/1/2018

Jessica Sutter