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Getting rolled on enrollment

DCPS talks a lot about transparency. Its mission statement says the central office will be “efficient, transparent and responsive.” The lottery for placement of out-of-boundary students has been tweaked “to improve transparency.” New human resources software will “increase transparency of payroll and benefits.”

In her most recent newsletter, Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee says financial conditions will make the 2011 budget a challenge, but one that can be overcome “starting with transparent and substantive discussions among all stakeholders.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to enrollment projections--a critical indicator of the school system’s health and the subject of a bitter fight between Rhee and the D.C. Council last year--the fog starts to roll in.

To help schools develop their budgets this winter, Rhee enlisted the 21st Century Schools Fund and the Urban Institute to dig deep into housing and demographic data to come up with authoritative enrollment estimates for the 2010-2011 school year (The current unaudited figure stands at 45,772).

There are signs that the system’s long, steep enrollment decline (from 146,000 in 1960, to 80,000 in 1980 to 67,000 in 2000) has bottomed out. So the next round of projections are eagerly awaited, and potentially historic.

Principals got their numbers on Jan. 4 and had two days to appeal if they thought the figures were off. But Rhee told an audience of administrators and parents in December that there will be “an incredibly high bar” for changes. As of Monday, the numbers were set.

So our faithfully transparent school system can show us the data, right?

“Enrollment projections are preliminary at this point and schools are currently reviewing them as part of the budget development process. The final projections will be included and released when the Mayor’s budget is submitted to Council,” said Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway.

That would be sometime in March.

The Freedom of Information Act isn’t much help. It requires a response within 15 working days, with the government getting an extra ten days if needed. The District’s fidelity to this requirement is pretty much nonexistent. I’m still waiting on two requests I filed September 25.

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By Washington Post editors  |  January 12, 2010; 10:05 AM ET
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Next: Special ed kids “missing to the system”


Transparency on OOB lottery. In 2009, the full lottery results were not posted to the website, as in previous years. The results for the 2009 lottery were only posted recently, so that folks could look at them prior to making 2010 picks.

A truly transparent system would also provide the lottery numbers of enrolled children. For example, one of my kids was offered a space at Janney in late July, having a lottery number of "3". Turned it down to stick with a charter. Was that second grade space accepted by number "4", or did that family turn it down? Is there documentation that each child was offered and given the opportunity to turn down a space? Many schools, many grades, many opportunities for lack of transparency. .. . of particular interest of course would be lottery results for 4th grade at Lafayette.

Posted by: parentof2redheads | January 12, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I hope you filed the FOIA anyhow, Bill - it might come through in time for a scoop.

Rhee will always fool around with data, as you've learned by now. I'm still waiting for Harvard to turn in the capital gains data from 08-09. Maybe you could give Roland Fryer at Harvard a jingle, just to check on the status of it. Here's what Rhee said last July in a WAMU interview when asked about completing the data analysis:

“We have not been able to do that yet and actually, we are not responsible for doing that. Harvard and the edlabs will do that. So now that we have the data in hand, we actually have to go through a process where the schools are able to review their data and make any notes that they want to, if they think there was anything that was incorrect. So we clean it over the course of that time period that they have to dispute the test score results and once it’s all clean and finalized, then we’ll send that data to Harvard and they’ll do that analysis.”

Doesn't sound too transparent, does it?

Posted by: efavorite | January 12, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

All of those too high salaries and still can't count. Priceless! Projections are still preliminary. Still tweeking the numbers? TRANSPARENT AS MILK!

Posted by: candycane1 | January 13, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Last I checked, school principals dont have security clearances and the projections they received are not classified. So the info is out there. Stop being lazy and do some reporting. Ask a couple people for some info. Pick a few different areas of the city and see if those schools are projected to be below or above last year and draw some conclusions. Stop taking pot shots about transparency. We dont care about your little feud with Rhee. Baby

Posted by: makplan20002 | January 13, 2010 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Where did all those extra students come from last fall? There was no need to wait for the audited count to show where the presumed successes were. Since charter school enrollment grew even more than DCPS enrollment, kids stopped being home-schooled, left private schools, stayed in school rather than dropping out, or newly moved to DC. All of those are worthy stories.
When cops, union presidents, and civil servants start appearing in public as spenders of serious wealth, why does it take years to "discover" the criminal behavior that accounts for the income?

Where did the growth in enrollment come from? Having missed that story, how about finding out how much or little the audits on Oct 1 (or Nov 1) registrations tell us about current enrollments?

Posted by: incredulous | January 14, 2010 6:03 PM | Report abuse

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