So You Want to Send Your Kids to School in DC
According to the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the DC school system serves over 93,000 students between kindergarten and 12th grade. This does not include students in Pre-K and students who attend private institutions. For the purpose of this post, I am going to focus on DC public schools or DC public charter schools. The DC public schools are just that, the traditional model public schools. They receive funding from the state and there is a chancellor who runs everything. DC public charter schools are still schools that any student in DC can go to, they just are run by private organizations and answer to a charter board.
There are great schools in DCPS and DCPCS, the process to enroll may just be different. There are In Boundary Schools where students can go based on the location of their home, Feeder pattern schools where students can go to a specific school depending on what school they attended the year before, out of boundary/lottery schools, and schools that have specific requirements and an application process. I’ll go over each in a little more detail below.
In Boundary Schools
Depending on where you live in DC, there will be schools that your child will automatically be able to attend. These schools are called boundary schools. What this means is that if you live in a specific area or zip code you can enroll your student into that school immediately and will not have to do any of the other processes. For example, looking at the picture above you will see that if you live in the Capital hill area of DC, your boundary highschool is Eastern. The best way to be sure of your boundary school is to go to https://enrolldcps.dc.gov/ and click find my boundary school. This will tell you exactly what schools are “in boundary” for your address.
Feeder Pattern Schools
Feeder Pattern Schools are schools that your students can enroll in if they went to a school that “feeds” into it the previous year. This only applies to students who are transitioning from one grade band to another. For example, 5th grade to 6th or 8th grade to 9th grade. Looking at the chart excerpt above, you can see that if a student goes to Kramer or Sousa in 8th grade, they will automatically be allowed to enroll in Anacostia for 9th grade even if they are not in an area that would make Anacostia their boundary school. This leads to the next system of DC which is the out of boundary lottery system.
If you and your student live outside of a specific area for a school or want to attend a public charter school, you and your student will have to enter the DC school lottery system. Information about the lottery system can be found here https://www.myschooldc.org/. Basically if there are other schools that you want to send your student to that are not their boundary or feeder pattern school, you will sign them up for the lottery. In it, the student will pick up to 12 schools in an application process. From there, you will hear back on whether or not they were accepted at the school or waitlisted. If you are accepted, you may then immediately enroll your student at that school and they will go in the upcoming school year. If you are waitlisted there is still a chance your student will be able to go to that school, and the lottery system will reach out to you as soon as there is an opening, even if it is after the school year has already started. Every school that has partnered with DC is included in https://www.myschooldc.org/. Parents will also use that site to apply for application schools in DC.
There are also schools that have more restrictions and must be applied to. For example Duke Ellington School of the Arts has a much larger focus on teaching students who are passionate about the creative arts. Therefore to become accepted to this school students must apply through https://www.myschooldc.org/ and complete specific prerequisites when they put that school into their lottery application. One of my 8th graders presented his art portfolio during his application to Duke Ellington. DC has a number of application schools that all focus on different areas of learning.
So that about wraps up my brief overview of getting your child enrolled in a DC school. Below I have included specific links and other resources that can support you in this endeavor. It may seem like a daunting task, but by taking it slow and steady I am positive that you will be able to send your student to their dream school. If there is anything else that you would like to know please ask your agent on the Just BE team and if they don’t have an answer for you they can direct your question to me. Schools are such an important part of your child’s life. Let us support you and them so that together we’ll have a perfect place to Just BE.
Frequently asked questions
- How do I enroll my child?
https://enrolldcps.dc.gov/ is the website that DC uses to enroll students. Clink on this link and they will be able to walk you through every step of the process.
- How does the lottery work?
Check out my brief section above for an overview. https://www.myschooldc.org/ will take you right to the website for even more information and a step by step process.
- Can I guarantee that my child will go to a specific school?
The only way to guarantee that your child can go to a specific school is by that school being in boundary or the student being in a feeder school. If you want your child to go to a specific application high school, they will have to complete any and all prerequisites and complete the application for that school.
- What is the best school?
There really is no best school in DC. Each school offers different experiences and support our students in different ways. I highly recommend you do your own research to see what school is the best fit for your child. The Office of the state superintendent has a report card system that ranks schools on a 5-star scale. The link to this website can be found here https://dcschoolreportcard.org/.
- What is the difference between public and charter schools?
Public schools are run by the DC government and have an appointed chancellor who is at the head. Charter schools are schools that receive government funding, but are run by a private organization. Charter schools have to follow the same overall requirements that DC public schools follow, but are allowed to get to those standards in different ways. Just because a school is public or charter does not mean that one is better than the other.
- Are DC schools bad schools?
Just as there are some schools in Maryland or Virginia that can be “good or bad”, there are schools in DC that have higher and lower test scores than other DC schools. There are many schools in DC that boast impressive test scores, college acceptance, and more. Depending on what you are looking for, a DC school can be a perfect fit. The data is out there so again I would highly recommend taking the time to research specific schools and think about what you and your child are looking for.
https://enrolldcps.dc.gov/ -website that you will use to enroll students
https://www.myschooldc.org/ -website to apply for the DC school lottery, learn more about schools in general, and learn which schools you can enroll your child in after lottery selection.
https://dcschoolreportcard.org/ - OSSE School Rating Scale. It is from a 1-5 with 5 being the highest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOhe2s4PHbY&feature=youtu.be - A brief animated video giving an overview of the DC lottery.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBRiCyjiZao&feature=youtu.be - An animated video about how the lottery system matches students to their specific schools