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Prior to the pandemic, DC public school enrollment was rising.
- The 93,361 students enrolled in the 2021-22 school year are split almost evenly between charter schools (48%) and DC Public Schools (52%). While both public school sectors’ enrollment grew over the five years just prior to the pandemic, charters (+15%) grew faster than traditional public schools (+7%). That trend was exacerbated during the pandemic, when DCPS enrollment fell in both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years whereas charter enrollment increased slightly.
- Overall, the District’s public schools have a higher share of Black and Latinx students and a lower share of white students compared to the population of children in DC due to the rates at which different families enroll in private schools or home school.
- Almost three quarters of charter school students (71%) and two-thirds of DCPS students (57%) are Black, 17% and 21% are Latinx, and only 8% and 17% are white. DCPS also enrolls a higher percentage of English learners (16% for DCPS vs. 8% for charter).
DC Public School Student and Teacher Demographics
Percent of Students and Teachers (SY 2021-22)
Race & Equity
Math Proficiency (SY 2021-22)
Despite improvement over the years, even prior to the pandemic DC had massive gaps in educational outcomes and those grew during the pandemic.
- Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic DC was getting more students to proficiency in Language Arts and Math than a few years prior, but still wasn’t doing so for most of its Black and Latinx students. The COVID-19 pandemic lowered proficiency rates for all groups, and widened the gap further. White students are achieving third grade proficiency at a rate of 3 to 6 times their Black and Latinx peers.
- Other groups also continue to be underserved. In math the District gets just 6% of students with disabilities, 2% of children in foster care, 6% of children and youth experiencing homelessness, and 13% of English learners to proficiency on PARCC/MSAA assessments.
- These racial gaps continue as students progress. Only 23% of Black and 40% of Latinx students who took at least one AP or IB exam during high school passed at least one of those tests, while 81% of white students did.
DC Third Grade Language Arts Proficiency
DC has improved overall graduation rates, yet is still struggling to serve many groups.
- While 93% of white DC students graduate high school in four years, only 74% of Black students and 68% of Latinx students do the same.
- Even for students who graduate, disparities persist in terms of who enrolls in a postsecondary program. While 74% of white graduates from the class of 2020 did so within a year, the same was true for only 55% of Black graduates and 46% of Latinx graduates.
- Not all graduates have had the chance to take college preparatory coursework. While almost all (93%) of white seniors took an AP or IB exam at some point during high school, the same was true for only about half (52%) of Black seniors and two-thirds (64%) of Latinx seniors.
- These disparities are due in part to differences between schools and in part to differences within schools. For example, while in 2018-19 schools in ward 3 got 76% of their students to proficiency in English Language Arts, schools in wards 7 and 8 only get 25% and 20% of their students to proficiency, respectively. However, there are also disparities within schools, with some schools in more affluent parts of the District serving their Black students at levels at or below the level of some schools in historically underserved parts of the District.
DC High School Graduation Rates
Race & Equity
Post-Secondary Enrollment Rates (Class of 2020)
DC continues to invest more in school policing than in school counselors.
- When it comes to school counselors, who can be instrumental in students’ thinking about postsecondary education, the ratio is over 400 students per DCPS counselor after subtracting vacant positions (data isn’t available for charters). Every ward exceeds the ratio of 250 students recommended by the American School Counselors Association.
- The highest ratios are found in Ward 6 and Ward 8, where 20 school counselors are responsible for almost 16,000 DCPS students, and none of those counselors are in Ward 8 elementary schools.
- There are roughly 3 times as many police officers and security guards as school counselors in DCPS schools. Students in ward 5 are policed over twice as heavily as students in ward 3, with heavy police presence in wards 7 and 8 as well.
- Disparities exist in school discipline by educators as well. While Black students make up 66% of the charter and traditional public school student population, they receive 82% of in-school suspensions, 90% of out-of-school suspensions, and 95% of expulsions.
DCPS Student to Counselor Ratio by Ward
The needs for out-of-school time programs far exceeded the availability, even before the pandemic.
- According to the Afterschool Alliance, for every DC student in afterschool programs, one more would participate if a program were available.
- 44% of children in low-income households (below the poverty line) don’t participate in any organized afterschool or weekend activity, compared to just 9% of children in high-income households (at least four times the poverty line).
- 89% of DC parents are in favor of public funding for afterschool programs.
Unmet Demand for Afterschool in the District of Columbia
Thalia Theodore Washington
Executive Director, Higher Achievement DC Metro