Local: Education

Fewer students enroll in DCPS after last year's historic increase

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Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

D.C. Public Schools' enrollment decreased by 1 percent this year, following last year's historic enrollment increase that officials said signified a turnaround for the underperforming school system.

This year, 45,630 students enrolled in DCPS, 439 fewer than in 2009-2010, according to an audited count released by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education on Monday.

Last year, a bump of 912 students gave DCPS its first enrollment increase since 1969. Controversial former Chancellor Michelle Rhee said the uptick was evidence that school reform was "moving in the right direction."

Then-Mayor Adrian Fenty concurred, "This historic reversal in enrollment proves that our hard work over the past three years has created quality schools that appeal to families and set a foundation for future growth."

The city's charter schools, which enroll 41 percent of D.C. public-school students, have been increasing steadily over the last several years. Charter school enrollment was up 8 percent this year, to 31,562 students.

In a statement on Monday, Mayor Vincent Gray only commented on the combined enrollment of DCPS and the city's public charter schools, which came to a 2 percent increase.

"The new enrollment numbers clearly show that parents have confidence in District schools,” Gray said. "I am hopeful that as we continue to make improvements in our schools, the numbers will continue to grow."

DCPS enrollment did increase for prekindergarten-4 through grades 3, a sign that more families are entering the school system. For four-year-old prekindergarten classes, enrollment increased by 6 percent, or 178 students.

Only 12 fewer students enrolled in middle-school grades, at a time when the D.C. Council has spent significant time trying to tackle underenrollment and other performance indicators in the middle grades.

But heavier losses were seen in the fourth and fifth grades - 217 students - as well as the high school years - 311 students. Enrollment in adult programs also dropped by 244 students, or 15 percent.

Charter schools also experienced growth concentrated in the early grades, including a 14-percent bump in kindergarteners and a 7-percent increase in students in grades 1-3. (Preschool enrollment also increased, but a reporting error by the schools leaves the magnitude up in the air.)

Enrollment in grades 9 through 12 dropped 4 percent for charter schools, along with a 1-percent decrease of 29 students in grades 4 and 5. Charters' adult-education programs grew by 13 percent, or 270 students.

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