The latest audited enrollment numbers have just been released, but not in a very useful format.
They show that regular DCPS enrollment is pretty close to flat, with only a small change over last year, or even over the last seven years. However, overall enrollment in all taxpayer-funded schools in the District of Columbia continues to rise, mostly because of a steady 15-year-long rise in charter school enrollment and a large increase in the overall city population.
The strangest feature I see is that the high school enrollment (grades 9-12) is down at all types of schools, with apparently many of those students moving to ‘alternative’ schools, at least on paper.
As I said, I didn’t think the graphs put out by OSSE were very informative, so I’ve re-plotted them here. For example, they put the charter school and public school enrollments on different graphs with different scales, making them hard to compare.
My first graph is of overall enrollment figures for regular public schools and for the charter schools (which several courts have decided are NOT public entities) since the start of the millennium:
The red line is enrollment in the charter schools, and the blue line is that of the regular public schools. You can see that the blue line has been just about level since 2007-8, when Michelle Rhee was appointed chancellor of DCP.
My next graphs explores where the students are. OSSE separates students into various “bands” which are a bit hard to decipher. PreK3, PreK4, and Kindergarten totals are counted separately, and then they lump together grades 1-3 (‘primary’), then grades 4-5 (‘upper elementary’), then grades 6-8 (‘middle’), and grades 9-12 (high school). Students in alternative schools, of unspecified ages, are counted separately, as are students enrolled in Special Education schools and those in adult learning centers.
This first one is for regular DC Public Schools. You can see that preK3 though grade 3 comprises just under half of the entire DCPS population.
The next graph shows the same thing but for ALL taxpayer-funded schools, both public and charter. Notice that the ‘adult’ sector is larger here.
Now let’s look a bit closer at the changes from last year to this, by grade band. My first graph shows overall changes from last year to this year, in all taxpayer-funded schools in Washington DC. Notice the large increase in the ‘alternative’ population and the ‘adult’ population, followed by a somewhat smaller rise in grades 1-3. The high school population – both public AND charter – actually dropped, as did the number of students enrolled in a special education school like Sharpe. It appears that a large fraction of that drop is students being reclassified as “alternative” instead of being in a high school.
Notice that once again, there was a big jump in the ‘alternative’ population, followed by an increase of about 250 at grades 1-3. As in overall DC stats, there was a drop in grades 9-12 and in special education. (the number for grade 6-8 is a typo: it should be 50)
Lastly, here are the changes since last year by grade band for the DC charter schools:
I was surprised to see small drops in all of secondary charter schools (that is, grades 6 through 12). We see robust increases at all other levels, especially at the adult and alternative levels. I’m not exactly sure what’s causing this; perhaps readers closer to the trench lines than me (retired 5 years now) can comment.
My understanding from reading US census figures is that the number of teenagers in Washington, DC – and thus, the number of students eligible to enroll in grades 6-12 continues to fall, while the number of younger kids is increasing. Obviously, those little kids generally grow older, and soon we will see a robust increase in the high school enrollment in the public and charter schools — unless they and their families all move out of town or decide to spend huge amounts for private or parochial schools. Which I doubt will happen.
In any case, claims of huge increases in enrollment in the DC public schools under chancellors Henderson and Rhee are just wishful thinking — like most of the boasts on Michelle Rhee’s famous resume.
Comments are most definitely welcome, even if you need a magnifying glass to see the “comments” button.