We have once again asked schools to share with us information about waitlists and available seats. We collect this information primarily so that we can share with parents which schools still have available spaces, and how high the odds are to clear the waitlist at schools that are full.
We are still validating this data, and expect to post detailed grade-by-grade waitlist and availability information for the 2013-2014 school year, for all schools, on Monday, May 6.
But what we can report now, is that our early data show that around 22,000 names are currently on the wait lists to get into charter schools of their choice. This is nearly 50% higher than the 15,000 names we reported last year. This is a depressingly high number that testifies to the continued strong demand for quality schools among DC families and the ongoing shortage of enough quality seats to meet parent demand. More than half of all names on waitlists are at schools rated as “Tier 1” under our Performance Management Framework.
It also appears that there are approximately 1,000 slots still available at schools. Again, we will share specific information about where these slots are available on Monday.
Demand is high in nearly every ward. Nearly every ward has more than 1,000 students on waitlists, with the exception of Ward 3 which has no charter schools. We are seeing the greatest demand for seats in the early grades – roughly 14,000 in PK3 through 1st grade, but parents are looking to enroll the children in a charter school at every grade level.
We know that parents are on wait lists at multiple schools, so our waitlist count undoubtedly includes duplicate names. This year we aren’t able to “dedupe” the names. But next year, as we work to build a common lottery, we expect we will be able to report not only on the total number of names, but also how many individual students this represents.
The real tragedy behind these numbers is that many of our best schools want to grow to serve more children, but they are constrained by facilities. Meanwhile, we count 25 empty school buildings that are either vacant or soon to be vacant. Quality charter schools need access to these buildings to serve the thousands of families currently on waitlists.