Though money wasn’t up for grabs, some District of Columbia parents were just as anxious for the results of the recent lottery. This time, it was for school enrollment.
The District of Columbia Public Schools and select charter schools allowed parents to fill out one application this year for enrollment in public charter schools, District of Columbia Public Schools PK3 and PK4 programs, public schools outside of boundaries or feeder schools, and specialized public high schools. In previous years, parents were required to submit separate applications.
Alisha Berry, who lives in Ward 7 in southeast, just happened to be online searching for schools for her 3-year-old, daughter Jonae, when she came across the Web site about the school lottery. Prior to that search, Berry was unaware of a lottery. As soon as she learned, she got busy trying to find the best schools for her daughter.
Her first choice was Eagle Academy. She learned early Monday morning that Jonae did not get in, but placed number nine on the waitlist. “To be completely honest, when I found out I had to enter her into a lottery, I felt a little discouraged because I wanted her to go to a good school. I didn’t want her to go to a neighborhood school. The process seems disheartening. It’s not an easy process to go through,” Berry said.
While Berry remains hopeful that her daughter will get into a good school, she said her biggest fear is the cost. She has her heart set on a charter school because she said she believes it is better for her daughter. “I believe the curriculum is better and classroom sizes seem to be smaller. Charter schools seem more structured to me,” Berry said.
Berry’s desire mirrors that of many District parents. Currently, charter schools educate 44 percent of students in D.C. public schools and have a higher graduation rate than traditional public high schools, 79 percent compared with 58 percent, according to Dan Cronin, managing director of Pioneer Strategy.
Ramona Edelin, executive director of the D.C. Association of Chartered Public Schools, said that the choice of schools in the District gives parents the opportunity to find a good fit for their children and a school that will motivate their child. “You may find one family that has one child in a charter school that focuses on math and technology and another one in a school that focuses on the arts and dual languages,” Edelin said.
As for charter schools, Edelin said, increasingly students who graduate from them do better. “They are performing better on the tests, becoming better citizens and are more engaged in their communities.”
Rachele Penn Martin had a little more success with the lottery. Her 3-year-old daughter Alexandra was selected for the Capitol Hill Montessori School. A former early childhood educator, Martin has always been impressed with the Montessori approach and its independence building. While Peabody Elementary School was her first choice, she is pleased with her daughter’s placement.
While Martin admits that she initially had her doubts about the lottery, overall, she said it is a fair process. “The interesting thing is that you don’t necessarily get into the neighborhood school. That is not a given,” Martin said adding that it gives students in neighborhoods with poor schools and opportunity to be exposed to better schools.