The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) has released enrollment audit data for school year 2022-23, showing that enrollment in D.C.’s public schools is up by 2.7 percent (or 2,482 students). This is a notable shift from virtually no growth in enrollment during the two pandemic school years in a system that historically adds 1,500 students a year.1 About two-thirds of the additional students are in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (1,527 students), and a significant share (38 percent) are adult and alternative students.
By grade band, the largest gains were in pre-kindergarten (3.5 percent) and high school (4.5 percent), in addition to a 15.5 percent increase in adult and alternative learners. More students in pre-kindergarten marks a reversal of the pandemic trend of lower enrollments in this grade, which lost 5.9 percent annually between school years 2019-20 and 2021-22. Having more high school students continues pandemic school year trends, when enrollment in high school rose by 5 percent annually between 2019-20 and 2021-22. Elementary and middle schools saw very small increases in enrollment.
Importantly, these increases mean a net increase of 1,431 students compared to pre-pandemic levels in school year 2019-20. However, enrollment is still lower than pre-pandemic for pre-kindergarten by 1,075 fewer students, for elementary by 579 fewer students, and for adult and alternative schools by 151 learners. High schools have gained the most students, at 2,523 more students compared to pre-pandemic.
The D.C. Policy Center report, Declining births and lower demand: Charting the future of public school enrollment in D.C., has more information on what may be shaping lower enrollment at younger ages.
- Coffin, C. and Rubin, J. 2022. Declining births and lower demand: Charting the future of public school enrollment in D.C. D.C. Policy Center. Retrieved from https://www.dcpolicycenter.org/publications/enrollment-decline/