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D.C.'s Public School Lottery: A Look Back, a Look Forward

FutureEd, PAVE, and the Georgetown University DC Public Policy Initiative hosted a policy forum on Nov. 18 about the common lottery system that Washington, D.C., students use to select public schools in the city, one of the nation’s most innovative school-choice models.

The event at D.C.’s city government building drew political leaders, school advocates and parents to discuss the lottery that allows students to choose among charters and traditional public schools through a single, on-line application. About 73 percent of D.C. public school students now enroll in a school beyond their in-boundary choice.

“The lottery actually makes choice a reality in the District of Columbia,” said City Councilmember David Grosso, a Georgetown Law alumnus who co-chairs the council’s education committee.

FutureEd Director Thomas Toch, who wrote about the lottery for the Washington Post Magazine, moderated a panel conversation on the lottery’s past performance and future prospects.

“There’s a tremendous amount of choice in the District of Columbia today,” Toch said. “What becomes critical is our ability to make school choice systems fair and efficient.” The lottery, powered by an algorithm that won its creator a Nobel Prize, helps connect as many families as possible to the schools that they want to attend, he added.

Lottery director Catherine Peretti discussed trends from the My School DC lottery’s first six years. PAVE Executive Director Maya Martin Cadogan, whose parent engagement organization co-hosted the event, shared the results of a new poll gauging parental perspectives on the lottery system.

The poll found that academic reputation and proximity to the home are the leading factors families cite in choosing schools and that many parents would like more support researching schools and completing the application. Families also expressed support for giving at-risk students a leg up in the lottery, ensuring that more of these students receive spots in coveted schools. D.C. Public Schools will pilot this approach at a new school opening next fall.

View My School DC PowerPoint Presentation

View PAVE PowerPoint Presentation

Opening Remarks
Christopher Murphy, Vice President, Georgetown University
Paul Kihn, Deputy Mayor for Education, District of Columbia
The Honorable David Grosso, Member, Council of the District of Columbia
Hansuel Kang, State Superintendent of Education, District of Columbia

Presentations
Catherine Peretti, Executive Director, My School DC
Maya Martin Cadogan, Executive Director, PAVE

Panel Discussion
Brittany Wade, Ward 7 PAVE Parent Leader
Claudia Lujan, Deputy Chief, D.C. Public Schools
Scott Pearson, Executive Director, Public Charter School Board
Vanessa Gerideau, Parent Navigator, DCSRN

Moderator:  Thomas Toch, Director, FutureEd