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Report Shows D.C. Students Jumping From School To School Mid-Year

A new report on D.C.’s traditional and charter public schools offers an “apples to apples” comparison on how both systems are educating students for the first time. It looks at several measures including how students do on tests, how many attend classes and expulsion rates for both systems. There's also data on the high mobility rate, when students move between different schools mid-year.

Ian Roberts is the principal at Anacostia High School, a traditional D.C. public school. He says he feels “vindicated” that this report lays out what he’s been tracking for years — that his school has a high mobility rate. Last year, Roberts says in the first three-and-a-half months after school started, there were 120 new students enrolling.

"The majority of them from charter schools, the majority from charter schools, and some from other DCPS schools," he says.

And it continued until at the end of the year, there were almost 40 percent of students enrolled at Anacostia High School that weren't there originally when school started. The school also had students leave, but overall still had a net student increase of 16 percent.

It’s the dirty little secret that’s been whispered about for years in D.C.: students are rejected from charter schools mid-year, but have to be accepted legally by D.C.’s traditional public schools. The vast majority of those traditional schools saw a net increase in enrollment over the past year, the vast majority of charter schools saw a net decrease.

Roberts says there are pressures on the schools when there are so many students coming in mid-year: they miss diagnostic tests that help teachers figure out an academic plan for the year and they have to learn about the school culture.

Scott Pearson, who hears the D.C. Public Charter School Board, says that charter schools over time lose approximately five percent of their students.

"And most charter schools don’t admit students mid-year so there is a flow from charter schools to traditional public schools. And it's an issue that we've been focused on for awhile, we think this transparency will help address it," he says.

Pearson says he’d like to see a change in how schools are funded. Currently, when students move, the amount of money schools receive to educate them doesn’t follow, so there’s no incentive to keep those students in class.

District of Columbia School Equity Reports 2013

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