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Friday Question of the Day – Revisiting Schools

by Prince Of Petworth — May 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm 115 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user llahood

Two years ago I asked readers where they planned to send their children to school in DC. It was roughly evenly split (sorta) between public, private and charter schools. To oversimplify, back in the day, lots of folks I knew either moved when they had kids or moved when their kids finished elementary school. Today, I’m seeing more and more of my friends staying in the district after they have kids.

However, last week reports came out that DC’s charter school waitlists had hit 22,000. And talking to friends who have gone through the process, it sounds brutal. So I thought (especially since I have a kid now) I’d see what folks are doing now and what folks plan to do in the future. For those who have kids that have reached school age – where did you end up sending them? How did the process work for you? For those who have kids not yet of age – what are your plans?

  • anon

    This waitlist numbers are highly misleading. Most people apply to many charter schools, often a dozen or more. So the same people might be on, say, 12 different wait lists. So 22,000 represents a much smaller number of actual kids. The whole wait list game gets a bit ridiculous as people hold on to spots until the last minute and then there is a big scramble the first couple of weeks of school. Many parents are advocating for one lottery like the OOB lottery for DCPS which woudl drastically lower the total number of names on a wait-list.

    From my own experience and the many families we know in DC (who live East of the park, so do not have a neighborhood school they feel they can rely on) they eventually got into a school they are happy with. It takes a lot of hand wringing but its amazing how fast those lists move at the end of the summer. (I’ve gotten calls from highly regarded charters with waitlist numbers like 189 and 300!)

    • Dartagnan

      Thanks for pointing this out anon, I work at a charter school and we will go through 250 in a waiting list to fill 100 slots. Almost all students have their name on more than one waiting list.

    • ZetteZelle

      I agree 100% about the numbers being misleading. As an example, last school year (2011-2012), my 4 year old son was in a highly regarded charter, but seemed to be struggling, and that winter I entered him into lotteries for at least four (& maybe five) other charters, so we’d have options if we decided to pull him out. Things smoothed out for him at school and we left him where he was–but a waitlist tally would have counted us multiple times, even though we did in fact have a good school choice.

    • It’s worth highlighting that DCPS now has a knock-out factor in waitlisting, i.e., your school choices are ranked and after your child is admitted to one school, your child is not going to be admitted or waitlisted to any lower-ranked choice. Waitlists at DCPS after this are going to start to be less inflated, but also move much more slowly and admit less children than in the past. That waitlist number in the 20s at a popular DCPS preschool may soon turn out to be useless.

      The truth regarding the charter waitlists is that people treat them as true lotteries due to the low odds of admission. They are very easy to apply to, with a couple exceptions, so everyone who has read a bit about which schools are successful apply to the same roughly 10 Charters’ preschool programs. At least now, when demand outstrips available quality seats and new charters start each year, charters are only “school choice” during the first or second year after the school starts. That’s how you end up with a school like Creative Minds starting, filling up and having a gigantic waitlist almost overnight.

  • Next year my oldest starts at West Education Campus, which we’re very excited about.

    • Uptowngirl

      Welcome to the West Community! We hope you will join us for the Wild Wild West Community dance next Friday May 17 from 5-7:30. West is a diverse school community with great teachers, students, and families.

      In response to the PoP question, we chose our neighborhood DCPS school. Neighborhood public schools should not be overlooked in the school frenzy.

      • We just chose our inbound school for preschool – Powell at 14th & Upshur.

        Look hard at all the aspects of the schools you are considering, tour, talk to people, and be open-minded.

        Powell has a well-regarded early childhood and bilingual program which we were happy to get our son into. And we live a couple blocks away.

  • anoninptw

    I used to think Charter schools were the best way to go until I visited one last week. I saw a child hold another child in a chock hold (wrestling move) and the teacher was begging the aggressor to let go. When I inquired with a parent about why the teacher didn’t physically separate the two six year olds, I was informed that the aggressor’s mother is a ‘Founding Parent’ and the teachers treat this particular child differently than they do other children. They risk their jobs if they label this child a bully.

    • Anonymous

      This exact same thing happens at private schools. Don’t kid yourselves. There is nepotism in every facet of our culture.

      • Anonymous

        Any culture, really.

    • Anonymous

      As a teacher, it really irks me when people judge a school by a single, isolated incidence. Sure, the parent probably does have a lot of pull in the school, but this paints a bad light on the teacher. I work in a private school and I can promise you I would get in trouble for physically touching the children.

      • pru

        As a parent, it really terrifies me that a teacher wouldn’t know the proper usage of “incidence” and “incident.”

  • What about homeschool?

  • Anonymous

    I own a house in DC and I live in Dakar. Honestly we’re thinking about not coming back until our children are out of school. I don’t make enough money to pay the equivilent of college tuition for 2 children for private schools. The nightmare of dealing with the charter rigamarole is too much even to think about. It is truly incredible that our nation’s capital can’t ensure a quality education for it’s relatively small population (city-wise). It’s sort of shameful actually. But shameful is really what the entire city management is sort of been about since time immemorial.

    • Anonymous

      You managed to pick up and move to Dakar but enrolling your kids in a DC school is too much of a hassle?

      • Anonymous

        They are probably in the Foreign Service. If so, the government will pick up their children’s tab ($30K+ per year, per student) at the private International School in Dakar. Which will give them a much better education than any DC public school. When they come back to US for training or a desk top assignment, they have to put their kids in public school (or pay for private school themselves).

        • Anonymous

          Correct. I run a USAID project here and my kids can have a better education here in Dakar than anywhere in any charter or public school in DC. There are in fact a selection of schools here, not just ISD, that would compete favorably to anything in Washington DC.

          • anon

            Sigh. Bloated federal salaries and bloated overseas tuition. It never stops.

          • Anonymous

            you must have been/are away for a very long time. DCPS isn’t perfect, but my son is getting a very good education at our neighborhood public school on capitol hill. he’s in his 3d year and since day 1, he’s had music, library, PE, art. He’s reading above grade level (as are many, many of his classmates), and next year will get a full-time Spanish teacher. His in-bound middle school is getting IB accredited, as is the high school. Great things are happening at DCPS. Sure, it’s not always smooth sailing, but there are so very many involved parents who are not settling for less. Public school is definitely a great option for my family.

          • frickorfrack

            “Doing good (corporate welfare for US industry), colonizing natural resources, institutionalizing the economic divide in a developing country” in the biggest farce and sham put on the US taxpayer – all USAID projects!…but can’t be bothered to involve yourself in your city and country of permanent residence.

    • ParkRd

      We’re in the same boat. Getting ready to move to South America with our 3 yr old. Went through the lottery process just in case things fell through, but didn’t get close on any of the wait lists for our top choices. Although he’ll have another year of daycare overseas, he’ll end up going to a very good American school that has a great reputation. I hope things smooth out a bit by the time we come back in a few years. Definitely don’t plan on paying DC private school prices.

  • elaine

    this is a flawed poll. in dc, you’re potentially looking at 15 years if schooling and a minimum of two campuses. the idea that you would commit to one particular funding structure for all kids for that entire period is absurd, particularly given the dynamic nature of schools in dc. next year we’ll have two kids enrolled in public school, but we revaluate each year, are considering charters for middle school and have a private school fund for if we reach a point where we no longer feel comfortable with those options.

  • I clicked on “public” in the poll and didn’t realize you had listed “charters” separately. Charter schools are public schools, as you must know, but there is enough confusion about it that it’s worth using “public charter”.

    That said, I agree with “elaine” that people are constantly reevaluating. We have a son in first grade, and I continue to look around and keep abreast of the options. And amazingly, we’ve had ability to choose from several good charters over the last two years (and next year). That might be changing quickly with the baby boomlet that seems to be occurring in the district, but the public schools (DCPS and charters) are all changing so rapidly. I think people can start to count on them for the future.

    • Anonymous

      I agree. Demographics in DC are changing rapidly, and you’re getting a lot more parents who are involved and will put pressure on the public schools to get better.

  • Wow, when we talk about schools on PoPville I feel the same way I do about homebuying; I have no idea what the words coming out of your mouths mean and I am totally unprepared for this! Where I grew up, you just kind of… went… to the only school in your district… no choosing, no waitlist, you just go. The only anxiety parents had was whether there’d be a bus that would come remotely near your house since we were all so spread out. Where do you even start? Is there some kind of list?

    • Anonymous

      Haha, same here. We had one high school for the five surrounding towns. It was a terrible high school, probably on par with the DC public schools, but what choice did we have? The good kids stuck together and we managed to eek out a decent enough education to get into college. And yeah, there was an hour bus ride too…

      • Anonymous

        Also, the kids whose parents panicked and sent them to a private school (or my friend whose parents bought a house in another district just so she wouldn’t have to go to our high school) did not turn out any better than those of us who went to the crappy public school. Food for thought!

    • I have the same questions as Allison – can a current parent explain how it works in DC? A friend told me that you just don’t send your kid to the nearest public school in DC – it doesn’t work that way. How does it work? We are currently in the process of selling our condo in DC and deciding if we want to buy a house in Petworth/Brightwood or in Arlington, and it would be nice to hear what the options are. I have no idea.

      • sbc

        for k-12 it can work that way. your kid has the right to go to a school assigned by your address (dcps has a page on their website where you put your address in and it shows you the school).

        you can also enter a lottery for out of bounds spots in other DCPS schools. You can apply to several and if you don’t get the first choice you ranked, you get on the waitlist for every school you ranked higher.
        For preschool and pre-k in DCPS, you don’t have the right to attend any specific school–again, you rank your preferences and you get assigned to a school, with waitlists for any of the higher-ranked ones.

        Charter schools have their own lotteries.

        Everything is explained on the DCPS and DCPCSB websites with profiles of every school, there are printed “school chooser” books in every public library, and there are school fairs at the convention center each year. It’s not an impossible process but luck has a major role in it, and the best-informed parents have an advantage.

        • ZetteZelle

          sorry for the cross-post…

      • ZetteZelle

        The local DCPS school that you’re in-boundary for (not necessarily the one closest to your house, but that’s another rant) has a legal obligation to take your child for Kindergarten through 12th grade.

        Lotteries come into play in two cases: education before K, and education in schools that aren’t your in-bounds (IB) DCPS.

        For pre-K education (“PS-3” for kids who turned 3 by 9/30, PK4 for kids who have turned 4 by 9/30), you’re not guaranteed a spot, but you get preference in the lottery for your IB school (if it has PS3 or PK4; no West-of-the-Park schools have PS3).

        For schools that aren’t your IB school, including charters, you enroll in a lottery. There are almost no preferences in these lotteries (there’s a “proximity preference” in DCPS lotteries, but the definition of “proximity” is ludicrously narrow). DCPS runs a central lottery, in which you can pick up to 6 schools; charters each run their own lottery and you can enter as many of those as you’d like.

      • Yes the DC system takes a while to figure out. To access public PK programs (for 3 and 4 year olds) you must enter a lottery and specify the public schools you are interested in in order of preference. You are not guaranteed a spot even at your in-boundary school. Starting in kindergarten you are guaranteed a spot at your in-boundary school but many parents still enter the lottery to have a chance at a preferred public school.
        For charter schools, each one must be applied to separately. These are open to any student in the district regardless of the neighborhood in which you reside. There are usually long waiting lists at these schools but as other parents have mentioned they can move pretty quickly.
        We currently have our son in a private preschool because we wanted to start him at age 2. Because we like the school we will keep him there for PK3. Then we hope to get a spot at a public or public charter school for PK4.
        Good luck!

    • Anonymous

      I don’t understand how schools in Northern Virginia work either. I keep hearing people from Fairfax County and Alexandria bragging about how they went to so-and-so high school, as if it were a university. I know siblings that went to different schools even though they lived in the same place. Is there a big charter system there as well?

      • saf

        They have more magnet schools.

        • Anonymous

          What the heck is a magnet school? This is so complicated!

          • Kerry

            I believe a magnet school is sort of like a public charter school (not sure about the application process and whatnot). But they’ll have some kind of specialization like science and tech, comm, performing arts, etc.

          • Anonymous

            I went to a magnet school in Baltimore County for high school, so I’m not sure if they work this way in other jurisdictions, but in our case “magnet” meant that it drew students from all over the county (whereas you would otherwise be required to go to your neighborhood school), and there was usually some special focus to the curriculum, even though we still got all the required county subjects. (My school focused on arts and technology.) I’m not an expert on charters, but I think (at least, in my area) that one key distinction between charters and magnets is that magnets are still part of the traditional public school system, and still have the same curriculum and staffing structure (for example, our magnet teachers were unionized and were county employees just like the regular public school teachers).

          • Lori

            No, they are not charters. By definition, charters can’t give an entry test. Magnets usually have some sort of competitive application process. There are several high schools in the MD and VA suburbs that are very competitive and (from what I understand) offer excellent eductions.

  • Anonymous

    The idea that any tax paying citizen has to subject themselves to a lottery to have access to an acceptable (not good, ACCEPTABLE) education for their child is BS. I will likely be going suburbs or leaving the area altogether when my children are school age.

  • Jesse

    Public (“free”) school as close to the house as possible:
    1) the $1,400 a month savings from day care is going to be nice.
    2) Who an afford to buy a house in Potomac or Bethesda these days?

  • Anonymous

    Public Charter. I guess we were lucky because at no point was anything a hassle or difficult. We got wait listed and then got into a great school a few weeks later. Couldn’t be happier.

  • Jill

    Don’t assume because you’re willing to pay for private school your kids will get in either. We’ve tried to out our son in Washington International School two years in a row with no luck. Apparently there are about 10 applicants per spot!

  • We actually moved into the city from Arlington with our two kids, 10 and 8. When we moved back from Austin to the area 10 years, and were pregnant, we didnt even look at the city…. ignorance, really. We sent our kids to St. Thomas More in Arlington, primarily because my husband was raised catholic (all the way through college, educated in catholic school) and the school was close to home. We chose Annunciation here in the District. It is a TINY school with an extremely diverse student body. We let go of the rat race – my kid must learn korean before age 4 and get in to an Ivy – mentality when we moved into DC. Most of our neighborhood friends go to charters – EL Haines and the local elementary, Bancroft. Those kids are just as well read and socially adjusted as any others I have met. Kids learn a lot from interacting… with their friends, their families, their neighbors; so much education comes from outside the school. We play a lot of Scrabble (old school, with the board) and read and visit all of the incredible free museums and parks. My kids are happy. They make good grades in what is a decent school. I don’t envy any new parent’s plight in navigating the School Games.

    • Lol, the “School Games” — may the odds be ever in your favor!

  • dctruth

    Don’t know where to start. I have a child in a popular charter and another entering a neighborhood DCPS EoP. I’ve visited several charters and DCPS, including East of River. My conclusion: DCPS elementary education is solid and getting better every year. Very rich, coherent curriculum, great teacher evaluation system. A lot of the issues stem from dysfunctional homes and neighborhoods, and residents (gentrifiers?) often seek to avoid schools with high % of low SES — but I do not see the problem being the quality of education.


    We moved to Arlington for the bigger houses and better public schools at lower cost.

    • D

      This is happening less and less often.

  • SerenityNow

    I found this guide to be very interesting and helpful, though, as others have mentioned, things are changing rapidly.


    DCPS and OSSE info ranks charters-to-charters, and standard public-to-public. This Great Schools guide ranked everything on the same scale.

  • KenyonDweller

    Our kid is in a private school. We tried the lottery for several of the better charters and out-of-boundary public schools and were shut out two years in a row. Our neighborhood school was not an option. To those who say you can get into a charter if you’re 300 on the wait list, good for you. You won the lottery, literally. We had no such luck. We are just fortunate to be able to swing private school financially because the other option would have been to move to the burbs, and we like city life and want to raise our child in the city. Oh, and just because you can afford private school doesn’t necessarily make it a shoe in. This area has a lot of people with money chasing a finite number of private school slots, with the power set and legacies getting preference. So, we got lucky there. In the end, we couldn’t be happier with our son’s school, so it worked out, though it does gall me that I pay for school twice, once with my taxes and again for a school that will actually provide a decent education.

    • AMDCer

      Yes, but that is your choice. I have no children but have been paying for DC’s public schools with my taxes for the 20 years I have lived in the District. This doesn’t gall me at all as guaranteed access to free public education is one of the things that make this a great country, and an educated citizenry benefits us all, not just those with kids. I hope to never need the fire department to save my home, but I’m happy that my taxes pay for the service.

      • KenyonDweller

        I don’t disagree with you, but once I did have a kid, it would have been nice to take advantage of the local public school. My point is that you should be able to take advantage of what your taxes are paying for. To follow your analogy, it would be as if you paid for a fire department and then your house caught on fire and no one showed up.

        Of course we could have taken advantage of our local school but decided it would not provide the education that our son should have. I went to public school from kindergarten through undergrad, and that would have been our preference. We have nothing against public schools per se; we just want a decent one.

        • AMDCer

          I understand it must be very difficult to make the best choice in your situation. I agree that it’s unfortunate that DCPS have not been a good option for many people for many years (and I would certainly have liked my tax dollars to have supported something better for us all, kids or no kids!)

          • David

            You are a good human.

  • Psha, I worry just about getting our kid in to an affordable and good day care when it’s born. Where’s the thread on how to deal with that nugget of parenthood?

    (bring on the DCUMers who say “just stay home! that’s your job now!”)

    • You are right, that is very difficult as well. Get on several lists as soon as you know you are pregnant. Seriously. That’s what we did and we still only got into a great daycare several years ago because my wife is on staff at a hospital that has a working arrangement with the daycare center. (Though I hear that preferential relationship is ending, so good thing we are done having kids.)

    • Carrie

      Agreed that if you want to get into any of the downtown centers you need to get on the lists as soon as you are pregnant. My impression is that you can wait until the kid is actually born for the neighborhood centers – that’s what we did and we got a spot at an independent daycare in Petworth, which we LOVE (Bright Start). It’s still expensive, but about $400/less a month than the Bright Horizons ones downtown.

  • Anony

    Because I live in upper NW, I feel perfectly safe sending my (eventual) kids to our in boundary schools at least through middle school.

    The talk of the neighborhood is that Wilson is slowly becoming a pretty good school. So, hopefully in 10-15 years, it will be really great. Otherwise, I hope that I’ve saved enough to pay for private school (i.e., Sidwell Friends, etc.).

    I think, especially in upper NW, many of the neighborhood children have been attending public schools rather than private. So, as these kids move through public school, eventually Wilson will be almost completely in boundary.

    I think this is a good thing. And, it will probably help other public schools in the district. My understanding is that Wilson is the best public HS in DC right now. But, if Wilson becomes filled with in boundary students, then other schools will get their share of the “good” out of boundary students. Maybe even another HS will become the new Wilson that parents fight to get into.

    • I really hope you’re right about Wilson. That might keep us in the city.

      • seventhstreet

        Same here! I think our path will be public/charter schools in Petworth and perhaps later moving to Chevy Chase or other area west of the park for high school at Wilson. Really hoping Wilson develops into a great option as we want to stay in DC if at all possible!

    • a Capitol Hill DCPS parent

      Wilson is ALREADY a very good school.

      Both my kids went there after Capitol Hill Cluster schools (DCPS all the way for both). One graduated from the University of Michigan, the other is about to graduate from Macalester College in Minnesota.

  • I’m definitely undecided. There are a couple of decent (not great) DCPS schools we’ve looked at for “when the time comes.” I’m not convinced by all of the hype surrounding charters (again – decent, not great), so I doubt I’d jump through hoops to get my kid in. Sadly, the best options for education in the DC area are still in Montgomery, Fairfax, & Arlington counties, so we’ll have to decide if the suburbs are the better bet.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t stand the lottery system in DC. It breaks apart friends, drains schools of solid growing cohorts. Why would we “gamble” with our kids future like that? Also, I see so many Maryland plates at our school, so many use their grandma’s address in DC so they can use our outstanding pre-K head start programs. It awful that so so many out of city folks push DC residents down on the waitlist.

    • Anonymous

      I recently found out that a woman I know with TRIPLETS who lives in Maryland and uses her mother’s address is sending all three to J.O. Wilson preschool. I was furious. THREE SPOTS. And she had the gall to be upset that she didn’t get into Two Rivers or a “better” school.

      Any word on how DCPS plans on addressing this??

    • sbc

      There are lots of reasons why a kid who’s allowed to enroll in DC schools could be dropped off by someone with a MD plate (parents just moved here, kid is homeless and in a MD shelter, kid’s a ward of DC placed in a MD foster home, parents have joint custody and one lives in MD, nanny or other caregiver is from MD, etc.) but if you think someone is cheating, you should call the OSSE hotline at 202-727-7224. They do investigate.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, report residency cheaters, but don’t do it on a license plate alone. Waste of manhours. Anonymous above appears to know something, rather than suspect something, and I hope that he/ she will do the right thing for the DC residents who have the actual rights to those spots.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, some I am sure about. Others not. Easily 50-70% of cars in lot each day have MD tags. One young girl recently was about to tell me where she really lived and her mom stared her down to remind her of the tale she is supposed to tell, so she changed her story right quick.

    • Anonymous

      I think school-hopping and shifting (not breaking) cohorts is the new normal. Most of the kids I know have been in more than one school by the 2nd grade. We can wring our hands about how it used to be, but the children don’t seem as troubled by this as I would have expected.

    • No doubt there are cheaters, and if you really think someone is cheating then report them, but there are definitely legit reasons you’d see a non-DC plate. For example, my parents live in MD. So on the occasions they pick up our daughter from school you’d see a MD plate, but we live in DC. But seriously, if you have legit cause, absolutely report them.

  • Anonymous

    There’s no way we could afford private school, so we thought we would stay in the district, kid in public school, til 3rd or 4th grade, at least. And then reevaluate.

    And then we won the lottery for a wonderful public charter. So it became “stay put til 6th grade and then re-evaluate”. And THEN, the DC International charter school was created, to provide middle and high school for the students of four language immersion charter schools, with an international baccalaureate curriculum. So now we’re staying in the District FOREVER. 🙂
    (Unless something awful happens with DCI, which is not yet open.)

    • anonymous

      Pretty much sums up our family exactly too! Very excited about DCI. And each year there are new charters opening up and they now have several existing models to follow. (Most of the established charters are great about advising and helping new start-ups).

      I actually feel so lucky to be living in DC where there are so many interesting school choices (granted, you have to be lucky to get in one of them!) but you couldn’t make me move to the suburbs now because I love my child’s (public charter) school so much and I could’t get that kind of program elsewhere.

    • Viva DC International!

  • Anon X

    Public schools aren’t free. All of us, with kids or without them, pay for it. You pay indirectly through your rent or you pay directly with your property taxes.

    I have no problem paying for others’ kids to get an education. But, I do have a problem with my money going towards such an atrocious system. The idea that if I ever have a kid, after paying for years into the system, we’ll have to face the uncertainty of a lottery or pay thousands for private school is unbelievable.

    I went to a private school in DC. The upside to all of this is that there are many very good private schools in and around DC. NYC is probably the only area with more schools of a higher reputation. However, that has a price tag and if I could finance my kid’s education solely through my property taxes and additional donations of time and resources that would be far preferred.

    Private school is a necessity in the DC area because save a small handful of schools in Fairfax and two small handfuls of schools in Montgomery – the local school systems suck. Thats driven the quality of private schools up – but it means thousands of dedicated families are giving up on the system every year – furthering its deterioration. There is, without a doubt, a defacto caste system in the area schools. Its too bad.

    • anon

      I think your perception is pretty out of date. There are plenty of fantastic schools in DC, both public and charter. And more and more people are staying each year and sending their kids to them. Or choosing public over private even when they could afford it. I’m sure it wasn’t like that when you were growing up but things have drastically changed, particularly in the past 5 years.

      • Anon X

        The only thing thats changed is that there are now some ward 6 schools worth a damn. The schools west of the park have always been decent. Except the high schools of course. There still isnt a high school worth a damn.

        As for charters, my understanding is that you stand a very low chance of getting into the ones that are worthwhile.

        If your child has above average intellectual ability, you can get into a good private school.

        If your child doesnt… well… there’s always MCPS. Or Gonzaga.

        • Oh snap. Local private high school smack! You’re just jealous ‘cuz they get to wear purple.

  • Anonymous

    I’m well aware that this isn’t the hip, urban, free-range organic artisanal answer, but hell no, I wouldn’t send my kids to any schools in DC. I’d probably move to someplace with excellent public schools, where they could go to school in their own neighborhood, and get an excellent, free education.

    I think that if I actually had kids and really valued the quality of their education, I would probably prioritize that over the benefits of living in DC.

    • Anonymous

      I think the parents have more of an influence on how successful a kid is going to be than the school they send them to.

      • saf

        Indeed. I went to lousy schools, but had good parents. I have an MA, so bad schools didn’t stop me from succeeding academically.

        My friends with less involved, or less educated, parents, have had a MUCH rougher time than I have.

        • Caroline

          My local public school was notoriously bad, but I made out ok with scholarships that covered most of my undergraduate degree. My family placed a high value on education, I loved to read outside of school, and I sought out the kids in my school that were smart and kind and motivated. I did have to work harder in college to catch up (I’d never developed study skills because the work in high school was not very challenging) but I survived and got a MS and BS in electrical engineering while my best friend from high school excelled in a rigorous pharmaceutical program. I do think it has more to do with parental influence and who the child is friends with. My next door neighbor was sent to a private school, but her family was dysfunctional (as far as I could tell) and she ended up being an unemployed drug addict that never left our small town. If I had a kid I think I’d take my changes with DCPS, because from my experience the school isn’t a big factor in whether they’ll be successful or not.

      • anonymous

        Totally agree with anonymous 10:37. Yes, parents have a very important role in children’s lives. However, a student’s peers and school quality also play critical roles in a person’s academic development. Throughout my K-12 experience, I was consistently singled out for tracking and gifted and talented programs. Coming from two intelligent parents (one of whom has a doctoral degree) probably helped. However, after being at the top of my class in a lousy public school in California, I found out that I was behind when we moved across the country. It wasn’t a matter of intelligence or a matter of how good my parents were- it was simply a fact that the school I had attended was not preparing me well. You can count on your parents, the piano lessons, and other outside enrichment to a point. But schools play a HUGE role in determining who will be deemed fit to get into the better undergraduate institutions, etc… My point: you couldn’t pay me to send my children to a DCPS school. I could never, in good conscience, experiment like that and hope for the best. No way.

        • right

          you are wrong.

          • Anonymous

            This isn’t DCUM. Go wander back over to there.

    • ZetteZelle

      The key line may be “If I had kids.” People who haven’t done deep research into DC school options tend not to know about the genuinely good options that do in fact exist in DC.

      • Anonymous

        totally agree!! if you don’t have kids, i doubt you’ve even stepped foot in a DCPS. you have no idea what you are talking about. you are just regurgitating what you think you know from 10-15 years ago.

      • Anonymous

        Whatever. I have kids, I’ve done my research, and I’m not impressed with what DC has to offer. Even the best public and charter schools in DC are not as good as schools in the suburbs.

        • anon

          By what evaluation criteria? I am genuinely interested. We are thrilled with our child’s EoP school. We have many friends with kids a bit older that all fled to the burbs once school age hit, but when we all compare notes they are so jealous of my child’s school. And said if they could do it over again, or were starting now, they would definitely stay in the city.

        • Anonymous

          Even schools like Brent?

    • Anonymous

      Also, that public education you’re referring to isn’t “free.” My parents moved to a suburb of NYC with an excellent public school system, but man did they pay for it in taxes- upwards of $10K a year. Sure it’s less than private school, but it still isn’t free.

    • AB

      Have you visited any? You seem sure they are all bad. Based on…?

  • That Man A

    Hail Gonzaga

  • Anonymous

    We don’t have kids (yet), but I expect we’ll do private pre-school, a good public K to 8, then private high school.

    High school is really the make or break point for a child. It’s where lifelong study skills & work habits are developed that translate into success in college and in their professional career. It’s also when kids become autonomous and their friends start to have a very influential impact on their lives. In my opinion, smaller classes combined with a set of high achieving “best friends” are probably more important during the high school years than at any other point in their lives.

    After an excellent, top notch high school education, your child will be able to excel at any university. I’d rather pay for Sidwell for 4 years and then send my kid to UVA or another “public Ivy”, than scrimp on HS and send them to an overpriced private university. If they do well in a public undergraduate institution, they’ll be able to go to any private school they want for their graduate degree (and, most likely, for free).

    • Jill

      Unfortunately that’s not reality… Good luck getting your kids in Sidwell after 8 years of education in DC public schools. They won’t even look at the application

      • KenyonDweller

        You sound so sure. So tell us, what is the basis of your certainty that Sidwell won’t even look at an application from a kid who went to DCPS for eight years.

        • Jill

          The reality is that after the primary years there is a very limited number of openings in every grade and there is a lot of demand for those few spots and as unfair as it may seem, kids that went to DCPS will have a much harder time competing for those spots

      • Anonymous

        It doesn’t have to be Sidwell, I was just using that as an example. It could be any one of the many world-class private schools in the DMV area or even a prep school in the Northeast. But I think my point remains the same. The only way we’d consider a public school is if they could guarantee small class sizes and the same caliber of teachers one would find in a top private school. Maybe some public charter schools will offer that in 15 to 20 years; but I’m not holding my breath.

        • Anonymous

          *edit* – that should be “public high schools”. From what I understand, DCPS is making big strides at the elementary and middle school levels. The high schools still appear to be a mess. But like I said, maybe things will change dramatically by the time we have kids that are of high school age.

  • anon

    we got lucky and got into a great charter school but were willing to put our kid into a public, in-bound PS3. we figured what difference does it make what school they go at the age of 3 as long as it was a safe place to play.

  • Anonymous

    I think it odd that our K teacher recently said to us – get your kid out of our school, starting in Grade 1 there are pretty much no good teachers and the system they use to teach is horrible. Ugh, time to move to Finland!

  • ANON2

    No. Just No. “but but…” “parents are…” “reform” …
    Please just stop. DCPS are terrible.

    • Anonymous

      Yep. DCPS sucks. They’re utterly inferior to suburban options on pretty much any measure. You’re in the city because you like it, not because it offers the best education for your child. Which is your choice, but please don’t kid yourselves about the quality.

      • Anonymous

        And because you recognize that city living carries its own non-classroom educational and developmental benefits.

      • Joyce

        Yes, that is why I moved to the burbs. I do enjoy coming back to this blog for the comments. You just cant find the quality snark in the burbs like you do on DC blog comment sectionsj!

  • Anonymous

    I recently bought a house in the Lamond Riggs/Ft Totten area (the new construction by Comstock) Although I am about 4-5 years away from having children, I would be curious to see if anyone knows what the schools are like in that general area? Our plan was to always buy in the district and stay for the next 6 years or so and then move out to somewhere like Loudon county (chantilly, ashburn, etc) but if the schools are changing and DCPS are actually an option (I was always told to stay far away from them) it would be great to be able to stay in the city and raise a family

    • Carrie

      You can figure out what your neighborhood schools are here: http://dcatlas.dcgis.dc.gov/schools/. It’s important to check, because I find that even in a very small area, you could be going to a different school. (Our in boundary elementary is different than other folks in our daughter’s daycare who live just a few minutes from us). Then check out the Great Schools website listed above or ask about the schools on posts list this!

      • Anonymous

        Thank you!! I will be sure to check this website out

  • Anonymous

    Is it considered “residency cheating” if you have property, whether owned or rented, inbounds in a particular area of DCPS but still had another residence elsewhere? What about kids who split time between divorced parents? Would it be cheating if they claimed residence with the non-primary parent?

    I guess, what’s the statutory definition of “primary residence” for purposes of determining where a child should enroll?

    • ZetteZelle

      My understanding is that it’s a question of where the child sleeps. I’m not sure how a 50-50 joint custody arrangement would be viewed.

    • Anonymous

      You cannot use the property you own but do not live in (the one you rent out) to establish DC residency for DC public school and public charters. That much is iron clad. Split custody, I don’t know.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this thread is stressing me out. Makes me that much more comforted in my decision to never have children. Hats off to those of you who do though!

  • WarderSt.

    We didn’t get into any of the 15 charter schools we applied to nor any of the public schools we tried for. We were applying for P-3. Happily, we found a relatively inexpensive private school that we absolutely LOVE on the grounds of Rock Creek Church and across from the Soldier’s Home. We could have tried again for the four year old programs but are so happy with where we are (and the school goes through sixth grade) that we’ve decided to stay.

    • Anonymous

      Bear in mind that PreS and PreK are the hardest entry years, because they offer something (free childcare) that no one else does.

      Try again in K and 1st. Much, much better odds.

  • anon

    This is going to be a very unpopular opinion, but reflecting back on my private high-school years, I came out of 12th grade thinking that my tiny bubble of a world was an accurate reflection of the larger world around me; that is, that most people owned homes, worked professional jobs, and that not going to college marked a character deficiency. The only exposure to working-class or poor families we had were through “service projects” that only served to further increase an underlying air of superiority and pity for those “have-nots.” It was not until I finished my second year of college that I understood how truly privileged and sheltered I was, not only due to my own stupidity and ignorance, but due simply to the fact that people who came from different backgrounds than mine were never my peers, only Others. So much of what we learn in school is not about academic material but socialization and learning how to move around in the world and become a local and global citizen. Should I ever be fortunate enough to afford private schooling in DC, I would rather push my children in an “adequate” school where they are surrounded by families from a variety of backgrounds (and no, the scholarship kids at private high schools do not count), who can perform a range of levels, than risk they emerge having normalized entitlement and elitism, a normalization that many of my peers from that school have never questioned.

    • constance

      Love this comment. Thanks, it is what I’m also feeling as a parent of a child while trying to deal with all the school options. Do I really want to struggle to put my child in a school with the children of the 1% ? I’m really enjoying the multicultural experience of our elementary school (public charter) and while I’m nervous about keeping up with the Joneses of the world, I’m also very feeling very appreciative of the rich cross-race, cross-class experiences we’re getting.

    • AB

      That’s a great point, thank you!

  • AB

    Can anyone actually please name names? Which ones are people talking about when they say “the good ones?” Which charters are on par with Fairfax Co Public Schools, for example?


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