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Out-of-Boundary Enrollment Begins

Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee has made some changes in the annual out-of boundary enrollment process that began last week. The application deadline has been extended from Feb. 28 to March 13, and parents who want to send their children some place other than their neighborhood school can now apply to five schools instead of three. Parents who already have children in elementary schools outside their immediate neighborhoods are automatically guaranteed that they can continue to the out-of-boundary middle school.

An electronic lottery will be held on March 18, with the results posted within 24 hours. The District will fill available spaces by giving preference to students with siblings who attend the requested school and to students who live within reasonable walking distance of the requested school.

The changes, which were outlined in a notice of emergency rulemaking posted on the District of Columbia Register last month, also appear to reinforce Rhee as the sole authority for granting discretionary transfers. Existing language in Title 5 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations specifies school principals as the key figures in such decisions.

"The Chancellor, and only the Chancellor, is authorized to grant a discretionary transfer...when the Chancellor determines that the transfer would be in the best interests of the student, and...would promote the overall interests of the school system."

Applications for out-of-boundary enrollment will be accepted through the DCPS website ( or can be completed at any school.

Bill Turque

By Marcia Davis  |  February 2, 2009; 12:08 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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"The Chancellor, and only the Chancellor, is authorized to grant a discretionary transfer...when the Chancellor determines that the transfer would be in the best interests of the student...."

I'm starting to wonder if Chancellor has very much confidence in her principals. She brags about "stealing" some really great ones from other districts, but then doesn't give them much authority. It's hard to imagine that she'll continue to attract good people using these methods. But then, maybe she has determined that there aren't very many good administrators out there right now, and is just grooming the energetic young teachers from elite universities to be principals in a couple of years, once they burn out from teaching, having realized they can’t be all things to all students.

This is just speculation, but perhaps she sees a large pool of inexperienced, idealistic teachers with the right "mindset" ready to go (as soon as she can boot out the vets) but a small, disappointing pool of not-too-bright administrators on the horizon. Best she can do, then, is use her prodigious rhetorical skills to convince them that they can make their careers getting in on the ground floor of the great Rhee experiment in urban education. She’s been successful in getting distinguished journalists on board, why not school administrators?

Then, once they’re in, she can use her finely honed fear and intimidation techniques to keep them in line until she doesn’t need them any more.

Posted by: efavorite | February 2, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

It looks like Rhee may have a history of usurping administrators’ authority, dating back to her days in Sacramento. I found an interesting comment on the City Paper 7/2/07 liveblog of the Rhee confirmation hearings. If I had read this at the time, I would have dismissed it as an internet rant by a hack who wanted to see DC’s new, sharp, young Chancellor fail. (I was in the tank for her then.) Now, however, it looks prescient. You can read the whole thing at

Here are relevant excerpts from it:
“…Miss Rhee was the interim Operations Director of St. Hope Public Schools. She lured many successful Administrators from all over the U.S. to come to St. Hope in hopes to turn it around from the cesspool Mr. Kevin Johnson had created within his own organization. But, alas, the St. Hope Song and Dance was just it, a song and dance. These hopeful Administrators were under the impression they had a say in the curriculum and the day to day operations of running a high school and an elementary school. They were sorely mistaken.

St. Hope had an agenda and meant all along to exploit the services of these highly motivated Administrators who had much to offer. These Administrators saw on a daily basis bad data passing through the SIS, they saw how under developed the curriculum was, they saw money wasted on outside agencies coming in and giving their resources only to fight with accounting about getting paid for their year long services. These outside agencies had to deal with un-credentialed new teachers who had nary a clue how to teach students, much less manage the classroom.

Additionally, Ms. Rhee’s hiring/firing practices lack ethics and morals and I pity the DC School system and all the teachers who will eventually face Ms. Rhee’s chopping block and creative test scores….”

Of course, this anonymous comment may not completely factually represent what happened back then in Sacramento, but it’s spookily suggestive of what’s happening NOW, here in DC.

Posted by: efavorite | February 2, 2009 10:59 PM | Report abuse

There is one fabulous improvement in this year's out of boundary process, one fatal flaw, and one feature that moves to transparency.

The fabulous improvement: out of boundary students currently enrolled in the highest grade of a feeder school are automatically granted a slot at the next receiving school in the system. Students in an elementary school that feeds into a middle school can attend that middle school (e.g., Shepherd out of bound students automatically have Deale as a choice). Out of boundary students currently at Hardy or Deale, middle schools that feed into Wilson, are automatically enrolled at Wilson. This stabalizes the whole school experience, from preK to 12, and as a parent with an out of boundary preK student, I am more committed to DCPS than I was a week ago, because I know that I don't have to worry about what middle school options I'll have (assuming ~probably falsely~ that the out of boundary system stays the same for 6 years).

The fatal flaw in this year's lottery that can easily be fixed. If a particular school does not at this time anticipate slots at a particular grade level, no lottery is being conducted for that grade level at that school. I predict the usual August bedlam of e-mails on neighborhood list serves, "we still are looking for students", will ensue this summer unless this flaw is corrected now. There is absolutely no way that at this point in time a principal can accurately predict next year's enrollment. Many parents have applications in to private schools, and won't hear about acceptances til mid-March. Charter schools typically work through their wait lists all summer long, so DCPS schools will have slots open when charters enroll their kids. New families move into neighborhoods, families move out of neighborhoods. As the lottery process is currently set up, the DCPS public schools will be the only ones in the city that don't have a wait list by grade level of interested students. Prediction: more declines in enrollment. Easy fix: modify the website to allow parents to enter students in lotteries for all schools that serve a grade level, whether or not slots are currently predicted to be available.

Another good feature of this year's out of boundary lottery is pulling the pre-K in boundary lotteries into the central lottery process. It increases the transparency of who is admitted to the limited number of pre-K slots.

It would be a small and easy fix to set up wait lists for all schools. If not done, this summer, out of boundary kids will once again be admitted to slots that are newly available by the same old showing up and hanging out at the office. Or, they'll move to the charter, parochial, or private schools, because they didn't read my comment and realize that hanging out at the office in August is still the way to gain admission.

Posted by: ShepherdParentof2redheads | February 3, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse


My first comment on the "fatal flaw" was made based on the list of out of boundary slots available posted on January 28. An updated list posted on February 2 now lists at least one slot per grade level at all schools (on first glance). By listing "1", there will be one lucky child let into each class at all schools, and most importantly, a wait list generated to use when future slots become available.

This is great progress! I can see DCPS moving forward.

Posted by: ShepherdParentof2redheads | February 3, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks efavorite, I went to that site and read the entire letter. From articles I have read about Rhee from the Sacramento papers to The Daily Howler's postings I have come away with a very negative view of Ms. Rhee's tenure in Sacramento. When supporters of Ms. Rhee speak of her accomplishments this never gets mentioned. I think the most telling aspect is at the end of that article. St Hope had a teacher/staff turnover rate of 80% from May of 05 to June of 07 and 95% from the same period from 07 to 08. That is an astonishing figure if true.

Posted by: adcteacher1 | February 3, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

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