School Lottery Results: “Of the 20,349 applications received, 14,592 students were matched at the time of the lottery – a 72 percent match rate”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr.TinDC

From a press release:

“Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today the results of My School DC, the District’s common lottery system for D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) and nearly all public charter schools in its second year of operation. This process allows families to use a single online application. My School DC received 20,349 applications from families interested in attending one of over 200 DCPS or public charter schools for the 2015-16 school year, an increase of more than 3,000 applications over last year. The common lottery then maximized the number of students matched to a school they want to attend.

Families used the lottery to apply to charter schools and all DCPS early childhood, out-of-boundary and specialized high schools, eliminating barriers and streamlining the process. Of the 20,349 applications received, 14,592 students were matched at the time of the lottery – a 72 percent match rate. The overall match rate rose by one percent even with the rise in applications from last year. Of these matched students, 85 percent were offered a seat at one of their top three school choices. PK3 and 9th grades had the highest number of applications and match rates of 87% and 80%, respectively. Additional students will be offered spots from waitlists over the spring and summer.

“I am pleased that My School DC continues to be a useful resource for thousands of families throughout the District as they weigh DCPS and public school options,” said Mayor Bowser. “This improved process is the successful result of our focus on better collaboration across multiple sectors, agencies, and schools.”

My School DC is a joint effort between the Deputy Mayor for Education, DCPS, the Public Charter School Board, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and public charter school leaders. It is a successful example of how District agencies and schools – public and public charter – can work together in an innovative way for the benefit of District families.

With more than 200 public schools participating, parents could rank up to 12 schools for each child. Families are waitlisted at schools they ranked higher than where they were matched. For the first time this year, parents will be able to log in and see their waitlist positions in real time as schools make offers instead of having to contact each school individually to see if there has been movement. Schools will also be able to make waitlist offers to families directly through the system.

“Today is the culmination of a joint effort to make it easier for parents to navigate the school choices available across the city,” said Deputy Mayor Jennifer Niles. “I thank DCPS and charter school leaders for their shared willingness to work together on behalf of their families.”

My School DC coordinated an extensive outreach campaign in multiple languages to make sure that families across the city were aware of the lottery and application process. The distribution of applications by students’ ward of residence reflects the current distribution of public school students in the city, as it did last year – an indication that families in every part of the city were able to access the application and participate in the lottery.

“My application process was easy breezy! The website and content were very easy to navigate. I understood all terms and verbiage used by My School DC.” said Johntia Barnes, a Ward 8 parent participating for the first time in the lottery.

Families can log onto and check their results or call the My School DC hotline at 202.888.6336. Families who were matched in Round 1 must submit their enrollment forms in person by May 1 to the school where they were matched. Anyone who was not matched with a school or missed the deadline may submit an application for Round 2 of the lottery. Applications (PK3-12) for Round 2 are due by May 8.”

60 Comment

  • This is complete sh*t to be honest. The city is celebrating a match rate 72% ( you could list something like 18 schools – hint: There aren’t 18 schools in the district that are good AND convenient – not that there are 18 good schools, but location/traffic to where you live, etc). In my case we listed 9 schools(after only really liking 3), including our inbound and were completely shut out. Waitlisted for all 9 – and nothing even close in the waitlist. – talking the lowest is the high 60s. So roughly 6,000 kids/parents have no idea what their doing next year. Their next stat is also laughable. After you list 3 schools – then you’re grasping for straws – either picking convenience or reputation to list anymore. They celebrate the fact that 11,650 kids got matched with one of their top 3 school choices, great! SO in honesty this system works for about 55% of the children in the city…The other 45% are screwed. Great job!

    • Wait…so what are your options now? That’s crazy! Are you forced to pay for private school, or try to get into a charter school? (I am very ignorant of this process as I am childless)

      • No, they have options. There is a second round in May. And you are always able to go to your neighborhood school. That is your “matter of right” school.

        • not for pre-K. It’s only by right for K and up inboundary

          • There’s only guaranteed PK for in-bounds kids at a few DCPS schools. But 87% of kids who make a PK3 application got matched with one of their choices. People who are picky and only want to attend a few programs might not get matched in Round 1. But there are always PK seats available, just not always at schools a lot of people want to attend. If you want free PK, you might need to be a little flexible.

      • You’re only shut out of free pre-k (basically day care).

    • see anon…nope we have the 2nd round – or private school or nanny/daycare. 2nd round, we’re not sure about yet – we already are listed at the 9 schools that would/could work for us…now we have to expand both the map and our criteria. So now we have to figure out or next option.

      • Good luck to you – I hope something works out. I’ll be applying for prek3 next year and am already stressed out thinking about it. The commenters telling you that you are acting ‘entitled’ because you care about your child’s education are obnoxious and a bit heartless.

    • the numbers reflect a large number of inboundary children with siblings or charter with siblings who are virtually guaranteed spots and retain good odds even where demand exceeds capacity. I sympathize with parents trying to gain seats for a first child in PK as the options can be limited depending on where you live. Most of the highest demand Upper NW schools don’t start PK until 4 rather than 3. There are more preschool options beginning at 3 as daycares can expand to larger class sizes with higher student to teacher ratios.

      The 6K number is a stretch — there are other options — lower demand public spots and variety of private preschools and coops. Many of those 11K are kids K and up with by right and charter options in addition to their lottery results.

    • It’s also tempered by the fact that you couldn’t list your in boundary school if you were K and above. So, people would only list those schools that they preferred over their in-boundary school; if no match, you go to your in-boundary. For example, if I have a Kindergartner and live in-boundary for West but want the kid to go to Janney, I would lottery for Janney and wouldn’t get matched b/c there are so few spots there. If my second preference was West, I wasn’t matched, but I’m still pretty happy and know what I’m doing for school the next year.

  • To folks unfamiliar with this system, kids can be “shut out” of PK3 and PK4 (preschool for 3 year olds and preschool for 4 year olds) because there aren’t guaranteed spots for children below kindergarten. Demand is greater than supply.

    At kindergarten and above, there MUST be a public spot provided, even if the only one assigned is at what happens to be a terrible in-bounds neighborhood DCPS.

  • You say that your child didn’t get into your in-bounds school, if that is the case, you either applied for pre-k 3 or pre-k 4. For people who don’t know that you aren’t assured a spot in your in-bounds school for pre-k that might be very confusing. Come kindergarten – your child has a spot in your in-bounds school.

    • Yep, this is important. The fact that DC kids apparently have better than even odds at getting FREE preschool at age 3 and 4. It’s not guaranteed, but it’s better than many jurisdictions do, where they only start free public education at the required kindergarten level.
      (But I was still frustrated when we didn’t get our top pick in the early years.)

      • But isn’t it actually even MORE difficult to get a good lottery pick at K given that not everyone competes for Pre-K slots?

        • Nevermind – missed the point entirely as I didn’t realize you were talking IB schools.

          • It took me a while to figure out that IB meant “in bounds”/”in boundary” and not International Baccalaureate. 🙂

        • Someone can probably look at the results and give a real answer, but my impression, from memory, is that K is as hard as the earlier years at charters and for out-of-boundary hopefuls. But then things settle, and odds improve for later grades.
          Keeping in mind that you have a right, by law, to a kindergarten spot at your in-boundaries public school. Period.

  • I worked for DCPS Central Office in a past life and it is actually really stressful for all involved especially on the ECE side. (Pre-K) The school system is making strides and has employed some of the top talent in the country to do so. Honestly and unfortunately, its just going to take time.

  • Seems to me that the fact that your kid’s future is being decided by a lottery says everything you need to know about the school system.
    It’s one thing if the default is a decent or okay school and the lottery is an exceptional school. But I get the impression that in many cases you need to win the lottery just to get into a decent or okay school.

    • I assure you that very few kid’s futures depend on which free preschool they go to.

      • for one thing, day care costs are so expensive, having to wait another year or two before you can send your child to school is the exact opposite of winning the lottery – it will cost you tens of thousands of dollars. i won’t be applying for pre-K for my kid until next year, but i’m already stressing out about the thought of not getting in and having to pay for day care for another year.

        besides financial considerations, i think a lot of studies show the clear benefits of free universal pre-k for children’s education.

    • Depends on what you mean by decent/okay school. My 1st grader at our neighborhood DCPS which is majority poor and minority is doing great. Your kids will be fine. Trust me.

  • Overall, I like the general lottery system and think it’s a great improvement over individual lotteries for each school..
    Also pretty grateful that you can send a kid to public school at age 3. People forget how rare that is in this country.
    That said, there’s something wrong with our culture (or values, or something) that so much stress can be generated over where a 3- or 4-year-old goes to school.

    • “That said, there’s something wrong with our culture (or values, or something) that so much stress can be generated over where a 3- or 4-year-old goes to school.”
      Not a parent here, so I might be misinformed, but… if your kid gets into a given school for PK-3 or PK-4, doesn’t that mean that he/she gets to continue there for elementary school? I.e., that the parents don’t have to worry again about the lottery until middle school?

      • and not even then, under the current rules. Once you get into an elementary school you have the right to attend the middle and high school it feeds. I really dislike this rule, which only dates back to 2009, for a lot of reasons…but it does mean if you like a school’s feeder pattern you may never have to do the lottery again.

      • Yes, it’s true that once you get into a school, you can stay with it. And that’s part of the reason the stakes are so high at the preschool level.
        But when it comes to what actually makes a school good, I just don’t think we’re focusing on the right things.

  • My guess is that whoa_now was looking for a PK3 spot, and according to the blurb above the match rate for PK3 was even high at 87%. That’s pretty damn good. Sucks to be part of the 13%, but really, for a completely free, completely above and beyond program, that is really awesome.

    • yes – it does suck to be part of the 13% – but it’s not a true 13% – its a cooked 87%. They’re counting if the lottery matches any of your picks. That’s not a success. You can list 16+ schools – I want the % of the top 3 schools matched. Sorry if this is coming across as mad, but many without children have no idea had maddening this is.

      I’m not sure there is a better way to do this – but I definitely wouldn’t call this a success…and part of me is just upset because I feel like my son is being denied a quality school. Part of me is looking at another year of daycare and throwing my hands up at paying for another small suv in cost. I agree that it’s great that DC has free pre-school…but looking at the numbers and saying eh, 13% got screwed – but 87% are happy is simply not the case. Plenty of the 87% are also mad.

      • You sound kind of entitled about this whole thing. “I feel like my son is being denied a quality school.” There’s still a second round. And at the end of the day your child is…3? I don’t think it’s the end of the world if they’re not in the best of the best pre-school in DC. If you expect that then maybe you should shell out the money and pay for a fancy private pre-school.

        • dude you sound like someone without kids. If correct, you have no idea and should probably move along. If you do have kids, I apologize – but we’re not looking for the best (or best of the best), we’re looking for a neighborhood school that we can comfortable drop our kid off without an hour commute or a really crappy school – we put down 9 schools. If that is too much to ask and entitled. Then I have bigger problems.

          • but you’re right this isn’t the end of the world.

          • No, I don’t have kids (mentioned above), but when/if I do I hope to never act like you! I would understand more if you were already through the second round and didn’t match, but since it isn’t over yet, it seems like you’re overreacting just a bit. As others have mentioned pre-k is FREE in DC, while it’s not in Md or Va. My point is you don’t even know yet if you have a neighborhood school or not since the second round isn’t over. Plus are you on wait lists at any of those 9 schools? If so, then you could still get in?

          • I do have kids. And I think it’s entitled to expect free preschool. And I KNOW how frustrating it is to get to kindergarten and realize you made a bad housing decision 10 years earlier. (Sure, it was the right decision for the time, but we sure didn’t think the school thing through when we bought.) But that was OUR mistake; I don’t understand how people are making the lack of acceptable schools in their neighborhood someone else’s fault. Either you accept the neighborhood school where you chose to live, or you pay for private, or you move, or you get lucky and recognize and appreciate your luck. To look at all those options and cry foul…. I don’t get it.

          • ParkView as a parent who got lucky (but still spends 2 hours every am/pm to get my kid to school/back) I can tell you that the 2nd round is the left over scraps and none of those highly desired schools are left. (some are down-right awful).

            Also, when you have kids you want the absolute best for them. Whether you make $10 an hour or 300K a year. There’s nothing wrong with Whoa-now venting. He just likes city living and wants the best. As parents, we all do.

            Yes, he can try again or hope for next year but some of the best schools (LAMB, Yu Ying) don’t take kids after Pk-4 or K. So you’ve got two swings at the bat and then you’re f’d.

            I say this as someone who lives 3 blocks from LAMB but will never attend because of terrible Wait list #’s both years. So, now I’m driving 2 hours in traffic to make sure my kid is happy and thriving at his school. Not a pity party, but try to show some compassion.

          • WDC – you have no idea where I live. The schools are fine where I live – apparently they are very much in vogue.

          • Honestly, then, shouldn’t you be glad that you have a great IB option for K? I really sympathize that you didn’t get matched, but there are a lot of people that didn’t get matched that are facing a terrible or sub-par IB option and don’t have that safety net after the ECE years.

          • whoa_now — I’m a parent of just an infant now, but obviously follow the lottery and comments here with interest. Curious if you’d be willing to share what neighborhood you live in just to get some perspective on where there were 8 schools you were happy with but shut out of each. And so sorry you didn’t get matched — seems like it could not be more frustrating.

          • Whoa_now: What is your complaint again? No free preschool? Only free “in vogue” education from K up?

      • I do have kids. I have done the lottery. Pretty much all of my friends have kids and have done the lottery multiple times. I’m sure some of the 87% are unhappy; I know they are. Hell, there are parents at my kids school (which is a highly regarded, sought after DCPS school) who play the lottery every single year for “better” places. I have one friend who has changed schools every single year, from one good school to another until she got her kid into one of the HRCS of her choice. My point is, there are some people who will NEVER be happy with where they are. I completely and totally understand your frustrations. But I urge you to have some sort of perspective here. ECE is a completely extraordinary thing offered by DCPS. Yes, it sucks to not get in your top choices. It sucks even more to not get in at all. But the fact is, your child was never entitled to a placement, and to be perfectly honest, your version of a “not good enough” school may be someone else’s version of a “wow, I’m lucky my kid got in school”.

        • yes, agree to all that. (well not fully on the perspective – I imagine you and everyone else would feel just as upset if you fell in the 13% – that would shift the perspective-It’s much easier to say “your child was never entitled to a placement” to someone, when your child has in fact been placed somewhere.)

          We put all our neighborhood schools down – we would have taken any of them, much happier with some than others obv – really only like 3, but we would have taken any of them. we got shut out. it sucks to be in the 13%.

          • Whether you have kids or not, I think that all children ARE entitled to a top notch education. Why say that a parent who is frustrated about his child’s educational opportunities is acting inappropriately? Like you would really be ok with your child not getting into a school that you wanted him to go to, or going to a sub-standard school? You’d be ok dropping him off everyday when you know he’s not getting hte best education? These things DO effect kids in the long term. Whoa_now, I hope you have success with wait lists and the second round of the lottery and get your child into a preK3 program you are happy with.

        • anon said>>”I have one friend who has changed schools every single year, from one good school to another until she got her kid into one of the HRCS of her choice.”
          See, I think that’s craziness and couldn’t possibly be good for the kid. I know I had my thoughts about what makes an ideal school before my own kid started last year. We got into our neighborhood school and I consoled myself saying that we’d try again until we got what *I* wanted. But it’s a good school, its leader named Principal of the Year, the kid is happy and it seems stupid to move on to something unknown just because charters are more trendy.

      • you can list 12 schools. If you did the lottery, how do you not know that? Also of matched students, 85% got one of their top 3 choices.

        I really think most schools in DC provide a good early childhood program. Even the people I know who sent kids to private day care have been happy in public preschool–and yes, even at schools with a lot of low-income kids, or in buildings that aren’t fancy, or that don’t offer a lot of special programming. If you have a very specific desire (dual language, very close to your house, Montessori, etc.) though you might not be able to get it for free.

      • I’ll check back after you have kids dude. The 9 schools we put down are exactly that – ALL the neighborhood schools. There are no more neighborhood schools left for the 2nd round. The 2nd round means a long commute. Am I overreacting, yes, is Pre-K Free, yes. Is it awesome that it’s free – yes. Am I guaranteed a spot, no. Is your vision shallow on this topic because you don’t have kids. Absolutely.

      • You can list 12 schools, not 16+

      • equildistance – yep, that is the silver lining..and I’ll come to terms with it soon enough. Thanks for bringing that up.

        it just sucks currently.

  • I have to say that first of all DC is the one of the few places that offers free PS3 and PK4 to all families regardless of income (meaning other cities/counties offer headstart but that is targeted for low income families). You can move to Arlington or Montgomery Co and you will have not even a chance to a free preschool if you are not poor—you still will have to pay daycare. This lottery system is very fair (in the sense that your money and connections don’t matter) and transparent and unfortunately yes the fate of your child does depend on a lottery. I played the lottery this year and I listed 12 schools a mix of DCPS and DCPCS and I would have been happy and ok with any of those 12 –although yes I had my preferred top 3. I got matched with my #4 choice a DCPS and I am still happy and grateful I will not have to continue to pay $18,000 a year for daycare. Ready to make my daughters school a great school –you get out what you put in.

    • +1 I’ve learned from working at DCPS that a lot of parents forget that PK3 and PK4 are not mandated. I can go through the whole breakdown on how DCPS is able to provide this service for the community but I wont. I’m just happy to see that there are some parents who “get” it.

    • Congratulations, and what a great outlook. I agree with you. My kid won’t be in the lottery until next year due to just missing the age cutoff, but just informally looking at schools I can find 12 I would be happy to okay with. We’re fortunate that my partner stays at home, we leave near a high number of great charters (although the public schools don’t mirror that), and I have enough job flexibility that we could realistically get our kids to any school WoTP and EoTR on my way to work. I’ll take 87% over the old status quo of having to send your kids to private school.

  • We got matched for a good public school and wait listed (with a good #) for our top choice, a charter school. Both will require us to move in order to make the commute feasible, and our match school will likely come with a significant increase in rent. Still might be the suburbs for us if the cost difference doesn’t make sense.

  • Does anyone have an idea how far down the wait list a school typically goes? We are wait listed at a few with numbers 15, 18 and 20. I am wondering if we have a decent chance of getting into one with those numbers?

    • Not sure this is the place for that discussion, given the large number of childless readers here. Check over at DCUM for what promises to be a rollicking and highly entertaining discussion.

    • Depends. For pK-3 not much movement. Because there is only 1 non common lottery school this is the only “alternative” to where ever most were placed. While some movement happens for sibling placement or leaving the city it’s not much to move the lists (especially at the more desired charters)

      For example we got #11 at 2rivers last year and finished #9. MV we were #36 and ended up #35. So be hopeful but remain realistic.

    • Based on our experience, this answer varies wildly depending on the reputation of the school. On the Hill, the most coveted schools like Brent/Peabody/Maury typically have no kids accepted off the wait list unless someone moves from the area. People just don’t turn down those spots. However, some of the less-popular charter schools end up calling kids in the 60s on the list. We have seen friends in both situations- thinking surely they had a chance with #3 (never called) or giving up all hope and receiving a spot in late August (60+ on the wait list)

  • Well, thank heaven the city’s putting money aside for real priorities, like building a soccer stadium…

  • It’s hard to understand why the free-PK lottery matters so much until you have a kid in daycare. Our non-profit daycare center costs 17K/year. Most nanny shares and the for-profit Bright Horizons are more expensive. Winning the pre-K lottery is financially the same as winning the real lottery. Also notice the number of families with their kids spaced 3+ years apart. That’s because they can only afford one in daycare at a time. Winning the pre-K lottery means you can get to work on baby #2, and time may be short for folks who waited until their 30s to have kids. That’s why people get legitimately stressed out about the Pre-K lottery. It’s not a sense of entitlement. It’s a make or break moment when you have to decide how big your family is going to be and if you can afford to stay in DC.

  • We did not even get into our neighborhood school for pk4 and we had it listed first. We also picked 11 of the closest schools to our home and did not get matched at any of them. Horrible system.

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