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DCPS enrollment holds steady

Bucking a decades-long trend of annual losses, D.C. public schools are holding essentially steady in the latest enrollment figures, showing less than a 1-percent decline from 2009.

Audited enrollment data released Wednesday by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) show DCPS with 44,467 students, a decline of 214 from last year's 44,681. Meanwhile, the city's public charter school sector continued its steady growth, with an increase of 7.8 percent, to 27,617 from 25,614.

The full report is available here on the OSSE Web site.

DCPS lost 5 percent of enrollment in 2007, 8 percent in 2008 and another 8 percent in 2009. In a statement, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said public schools could see the first increase since 1971 in the next school year.

The figures are based on school counts taken in October, audited for residency and other factors. As is typically the case, the raw October counts were somewhat higher. DCPS reported 45,772 students in that census; charter schools claimed 27,953.

A total of 72,406 students attend District public and public charter schools, including students in the New Beginnings program run by the Dept. of Youth and Rehabilitative Services. That represents an increase of 2.5 percent.

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By Bill Turque  |  March 24, 2010; 12:58 PM ET
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Bill - can you do more analysis?

For instance, if DCPS lost 200 and the Charter gained 2,000, where did those additional charter kids come from? Is this similar to what's happened in past years, that is, has there been a gap like that between what DCPS loses and what charters gain?

Posted by: efavorite | March 24, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

The number of Pre-K slots and pre-school slots was increased, as will happen again next year. Especially considering that, these numbers come closer to vindicating common sense and the Council Chairman's claim. DCPS did, after all, suffer another enrollment decline,and larger than apparent considering those new pre-k and preschool slots, which at public expense were undoubtedly fully enrolled. (That's to judge from this year's lottery subscription and wait lists.)
In the business world, same store sales, from year to year is the comparison that is looked at. Continued charter school growth is built into their business plans, as many schools add grades.While DCPS has touted schools with expanded enrollment, there were likely a larger number that lost enrollment unless they added grades before Kindergarten.

Posted by: incredulous | March 24, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

It's pretty amazing that anyone here is dreaming of vindicating the chairman's claim. A year ago, Gray went on the warpath to cut the DCPS budget because he could only see a perpetual enrollment decline. Gray charged that DCPS’s projection of flat enrollment implicated "parachutes coming out of the sky." ( That same article states that the DCPS projections were based, in part, on an expectation of added preschool and Pre-K enrollment.

Incredulous, it looks like you are moving the goalposts just so you can say that DCPS failed. As a DCPS graduate, I resent that.

Posted by: hungrypug | March 25, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

What's to resent? I went to the URL you were good enough to include, and found Chairman Gray quoted [correctly?] to say. ... "where are 3000 new students coming from?" I took him to refer to a base of the audited Oct 08 enrollment.
Several months ago Rhee announced its provisional numbers, and boasted that her forecast had been exceeded.
Not so. The full audit report disallowed over 1000 of DCPS's registered students. Rhee declared an expected 45,054 last May. There are 600 fewer.
Efavorite's question is a good one. Where are all these new students coming from? The audit report is uninterested, and doesn't say. If OSSE won't tell the public, not only will we go through nonsensical hearings over next year's budget, with people talking past one another, but nobody will ever know how much or little enrollment is growing by opening new spaces and creating alternative settings.
(I should have added to my list of wonderments, a question about how many students have been added to the rolls of alternative HS settings.)

Posted by: incredulous | March 25, 2010 12:53 AM | Report abuse

hungrypug - losing enrollment isn't a sign of failing, it's a sign of migration - as would be gaining enrollment - and how or why this migration is happening is a worthy question. It sounds like you're trying to cut it off, for fear of making DC look bad. It would be a shame to halt understand of the region's demographic migration patterns for this reason.

It's important to know what part of DC's gain is in pre-school and pre-k - not just to factor it into the final numbers, but to use it for predictions for further growth. This is something any district would want to know -- unless for some reason they felt hiding the info would be more beneficial in some way.

It seems to me this number would be easily accessible through public records, so I expect to see it reported in the Post and by DCPS soon.

Posted by: efavorite | March 25, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

I would be interested to know how the preschool and pre-k numbers play in to the final numbers being reported. To compare long term trends, I'd be interested to see numbers of enrollment that is limited to K and above (from DCPS and charters). Since DCPS and charters are both adding preschool and pre-k, and with the work of pre-k for all and a better understanding of the importance of pre-k, more slots are coming online. Is what is sustaining DCPS' enrollment numbers, parents like me taking sort of a "trial run" with the preschool level/pre-k - and if it didn't work out figuring we'd have to move to a charter/private/move to the suburbs solution?

Posted by: KH20003 | March 25, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The District's population is growing, by almost 9,500 last year. So, you'd expect enrollment to increase, whether or not the schools are doing better.

Posted by: emrj | March 25, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

So all the parents I know from daycare are saying thanks to Michelle Rhee and ONLY Michelle Rhee they are trying their local DCPS Pre-Ks next year but the band of bozos above have all kinds of reasons why common sense is not true, the earth is flat and the sky is green.

Anything, that is, except talking to the parents of Pre-K students or, I often wonder, coming out of their parents' basement to see the light of day.

Posted by: bbcrock | March 25, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

I predict DCPS audited enrollment will increase by about 1,000-1,200 students next year.

Charter school enrollment will likely go up by about the same amount, mostly from the expansion of successful schools. I don't see more than one or two of the applications for new charters being accepted (not counting the wild cards--two private schools looking to convert to public charter schools).

Posted by: gardyloo | March 26, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

DCPS enrollment declines would have been larger, without new slots in the preK grades. Charter school enrollment grew by 8%, but Charters include an increasing number of PreK slots also.
OSSE has spent lots of consulting $ on enrollment prediction, by sub-sector. To know whether DC might be overspending on facilities which may not be utilized if parents throughout DC follow the long-time pattern of parents in Ward 3 in abandoning DCPS after grade school, we need to know much more.
Neither efavorite nor I are faulting WaPo's reporter here. I'm challenging OSSE to stop presenting figures akin to train- occupancy at the beginning of the route, having no confidence that the train won't be travelling the last half of its route 3/4 empty and without staff and fuel to complete the trips.
OSSE should make data available to the public on recent migration between Charters and DCPS schools between school years. Among the considerations of the Rhee administration is undoubtedly the ability of DCPS schools to attract new students, to retain them during through the grades of service, and then have completers matriculate to the DCPS school at the next level. Informally, many DCPS principals of elementary and middle schools have estimates of their losses to the Charter sub-sector.
Go to the latest Public Charter School annual reports Turque mentioned on his blog and find the basic parameter --re-enrollment rate -- for every one of the Charter Schools. This is basic stuff.

Posted by: incredulous | March 26, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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