FutureEd, an education think tank at the McCourt School, and the Georgetown University D.C. Public Policy Initiative hosted a policy forum on Nov. 18 about the common lottery system that allows Washington, D.C. students to choose among charters and traditional public schools through a single, online application.
The event at D.C.’s city government building drew political leaders, school advocates and parents to discuss what has become one of the nation’s most innovative school-choice models. 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.