On September 27, 2020, the Director of the D.C. Policy Center’s Education Policy Initiative, Chelsea Coffin, was quoted by The 74 Million:

“It’s critical to find out who those students might be,“ said Chelsea Coffin, director of the Education Policy Initiative at the D.C. Policy Center, who has studied enrollment trends in the past. “We need to be thinking about who’s not present and why they’re not present.”

Experts like Coffin and Filardo are taking the data seriously — and want more data, like breakdowns by school for both sectors, to get a clearer picture: Have missing students moved? Enrolled elsewhere? Dropped out? Who are they, and what do they need?

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Experts said factors beyond nimbleness may also account for the enrollment gaps shown Sept. 21. Coffin from the D.C. Policy Center noted that some families “might not be signing up [for DCPS] as urgently as you would at a charter” because every child has a guaranteed right to their neighborhood school at any time — whereas families must enter charters through a lottery system.

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D.C. Policy Center has been canvassing communities, and it “seems like the virtual learning we have right now is very challenging for our youngest learners” to pay attention and stay engaged, Coffin said. Filardo noted that parents keeping their kids in child care so they can work is also likely.

It’s also “really important that early learners have a strong start” to their education, Coffin said. “It’s important we don’t lose track of them.”

Read more: As Many Public Schools Fight to Retain Students Amid Pandemic, Washington, D.C.’s Charters Are Closer to Meeting Fall Enrollment Projections Than DCPS’s Traditional Schools | The 74 Million

Related: Enrollment still expected to increase despite slower population growth in D.C. | D.C. Policy Center

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