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Charter school enrollment up nearly 6 percent

Enrollment in the city's 52 public charter schools is up nearly 6 percent this fall, according to a preliminary count by the D.C. Public Charter School Board. The board reported Wednesday afternoon that its unaudited student count stands at 29,557. That's 5.7 percent more than the October 2009 census.

Charter officials are describing it as a 7 percent jump, but that's comparing it to last year's final audited figure of 27,617, which is derived after residency records are verified. The final audited count, available early next year, is usually a bit a bit lower, so the apples-to-apples comparison is the October count.

In any event, the data signals continued growth for the city's charter sector, which does not appear to be losing ground even as DCPS enrollment stabilizes and inches upward. Charter schools now educate close to 40 percent of the District's public schoolchildren.

"We are pleased that parents continue to choose charter schools as an option," board chairman Brian Jones said in a statement. "Even with the closure of five charter schools this year we continue to see growth at all grade levels. This is an indication that charter schools continue to play a key role in education reform."

By Bill Turque  | October 6, 2010; 2:56 PM ET
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You could have asked for the components of growth. It would take nothing away from charter schools to learn how much of this year's enrollment is in new spaces schools didn't have last year, from grades added at the bottom and at the top of their previous grade range. How many of the places are from seats in newly chartered schools? How much of the charter school enrollment is from students formerly enrolled in DCPS?

To repeat that DCPS enrollment is "inching" up when the entire increase -statistic to statistic, from year to year -- can be attributed to NEW pre-kindergarten seats is less than honest reporting. If you don't press for these statistics, who will? If you don't have the statistical acumen to specifiy the request, why won't your editors supply it?

And lets give charter schools their due in retention of students: There's a Board to close a school down if students are not in genuine attendance. DCPS, on the other hand, has expanded use of credit recovery courses and other devices to retain students. Great, if they constituted education. But how much support for them comes from the way such programs allow DCPS to keep students on the books as enrolled, when the juveniles are, in fact, scarcely in attendance, and the coursework requirements are minimal as well?

Posted by: incredulous | October 6, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

The following charter schools added grades this year:

Washington Yu Ying, added 3rd
EL Haynes, added PreS and a grade at the top, I think 8th
Capital City, added a grade at the top, I think 11th
Washington Latin, added a grade at the top, 10th or 11th

If one assumes that each of these grades enrolled 40 kids, that is 200 additional seats in popular charter schools.

Five charter schools closed, I don't know what the enrollment was for these schools, some were quite small.

Posted by: parentof2redheads | October 7, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

The jump in public school enrollment in the city may not be vote of confidence in the improvement in DCPS or the charter schools. Since almost all public school systems in the region have seen a jump in enrollment, it may be a function of the down economy, and the reality that parents of the new enrollees can no longer afford private school.

Posted by: btylander | October 7, 2010 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Wasn't this inevitable after DCPS said an 1% jump, so that created an one-upmanship challenge from the various school sources. Who's next, will it be the private schools data?

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 7, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

So after 39 straight years of declining enrollment, through all the increases and decreases in the school age population and the ups and downs of the economy over those years, this is the first year that enrollment actually increases. Doesn’t this mean something? If you’re one of those Rhee-is-the-devil folks, this is just another fact that must be explained away – likely without having spoken to parents who have seen the positive changes over the last few years in their schools. I know that some DCPS schools are seeing students coming back from private schools – seems to me something must have happened to entice these families back to DCPS. Yes, the economy is a factor but even during past recessions, confidence in DCPS was so low that parents found a way to avoid it such that enrollment declined year after year. And the fact that certain schools have added grades only says to me that demand is building and is being met by the increase in spaces. When the demand wasn’t there, schools consolidated and some schools had to close. Supply follows demand here as it does in every school district.

Posted by: tyty1 | October 7, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Of course you first have to account for the 1700 students whose private school vouchers were eliminated by the demands of Democrats and teachers union who favor a public monopoly.

Posted by: cprferry | October 7, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

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