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D.C. charter schools gain 2,000 students

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Enrollment in D.C.’s public charter schools is believed to be 2,000 higher than last year’s, with almost half the schools registering more than their projected number of students and the other half below projections, based on preliminary reports from the charter system’s board.

If the numbers hold true, it would mean slightly smaller gains in the charter system than in past years, yet still much more success in attracting students than D.C. Public Schools, where the numbers have fallen for years, prompting a proposed shutdown of nearly two dozen schools.

Taken as a whole, the charter school system this year has 94 percent of what individual schools had hoped for in terms of enrollment, or just under 22,000 students. Last year’s final tally was 19,733, and the goal for the system this school year was approximately 22,600 students.

Nona Richardson, spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Charter Board, called the enrollment rate "pretty well expected" even though it’s not quite what was predicted.

Projections are made by each of the 56 charter operators. Richardson said the projections are used to determine federal funds and then adjusted after an annual audit, expected either later this year or early next year.

Of the charter schools that have reportedly exceeded their enrollment projections, the ones that did so most dramatically were Two Rivers, Washington Latin, Latin American and Options.

The schools that have the biggest discrepancies between projected and actual student enrollment are Washington Academy, Barbara Jordan, Meld Evenstart and Potomac Lighthouse

Dave Garrison, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, said the so far untested belief is that most children who leave DCPS switch to the charter system.

Brookings along with two other research agencies, however, are in the midst of a comprehensive study to get much more detailed answers about crossover between the two public education systems.

dlevitz@dcexaminer.com

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