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Enrollment

Public school enrollment in the District has started rising again after decreasing during the first portion of the pandemic.
  • The 95,883 students enrolled in the 2022-23 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, but in the 2022-23 school year enrollment in both sectors grew.
  • Overall, the District’s public schools (DCPS and charter) 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).
Public School (DCPS and Charter) Student and Teacher Demographics
Students
Teachers
Percent of Students and Teachers (SY 2021-22)
Demographics Icon

Race & Equity

Math Proficiency (SY 2022-23)
11%
Black
75%
White
19%
Latinx

Educational Outcomes

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 nearly 5 times their Black peers.
  • Other groups also continue to be underserved. In math the District gets just 8% of students with disabilities, less than 1% of children in foster care, 7% of children and youth experiencing homelessness, and 17% 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 (as of 2022).
  • These disparities are due in part to differences between schools and in part to differences 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 Third Grade Language Arts Proficiency

Graduation Rates

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 (96%) 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 (69%) of Latinx seniors.
DC High School Graduation Rates
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Race & Equity

Post-Secondary Enrollment Rates (Class of 2020)
52%
Black
79%
White
47%
Latinx

Student Mental Health

DC Students Need More Support
  • 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). While DCPS roughly hits its target ratio of 250 in high school and 400 in middle school, when elementary schools are included every ward exceeds the ratio of 250 students recommended by the American School Counselors Association.
  • Students can also get support from mental health professionals who are not school employees: roughly half of all public schools in the District have a DBH or CBO clinician, with better coverage for high schools than elementary and middle schools (as of July 2023). That still leaves half of schools without any such coverage, and at schools with a larger student body or higher share of struggling students, one clinician may not be enough to meet the need.
  • As of the 2018-19 school year there were roughly 3 times as many police officers and security guards as school counselors in DCPS schools. Students in ward 5 were 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 64% of the charter and traditional public school student population, they receive 80% of in-school suspensions, 92% of out-of-school suspensions, and 90% of expulsions in the 2021-22 school year.
DCPS Student to Counselor Ratio by Ward

Early Care & Education

The benefits of a high-quality early childhood education last a lifetime. Yet today, geography, race, and income often limit the opportunities of our youngest DC residents. There are only enough licensd child care seats for 41 percent of the District's infants and toddlers.
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Out-of-School Time

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. A 2023 report by the DC Policy Center comes to a similar conclusion: to achieve universal coverage for subsidized afterschool programs, DC would need to add approximately 39,500 spots in afterschool programs for children in PK3-Grade 8. For summer, the need is even greater, with a gap of nearly 53,500 spots for this age group.
  • For high school students, there are only afterschool program slots for one out of three students.
  • Elementary school aged youth living in wards 7 and 8 have have fewer afterschool seats within a mile of their home than youth in other wards.
  • 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). Parents with lower incomes were also less likely to report being exposed to OST programs; 57% of those with household incomes under $50,000 reported being exposed to OST compared to 94% of those with household incomes between $150,000 and $200,000.
  • 89% of DC parents are in favor of public funding for afterschool programs.
Unmet Demand for Afterschool in the District of Columbia

Find more information about all the demographic measures in our data references section and visit our appendix to download a table with the full DC KIDS COUNT 2024 data set.