Published Online: October 6, 2008
Published in Print: October 8, 2008, as Study Sees Chance to Reverse Enrollment Losses in Nation's Capital

Report Roundup

Study Sees Chance to Reverse Enrollment Losses in Nation's Capital

“Quality Schools, Healthy Neighborhoods, and the Future of D.C.”

Civic and education leaders could reverse the decline in public school enrollment in the nation’s capital and potentially attract up to 20,000 more students to the city’s public schools by 2015 if they improve academic achievement, expand affordable housing options, and strengthen neighborhoods, a new pair of reports concludes.

To do that, District of Columbia leaders must “target increased educational and out-of-school time investment to neighborhoods of greatest need: where lots of families already live and do not have high-quality school options,” and “preserve and expand affordable housing in neighborhoods that are currently undergoing gentrification as well as in historically high-priced neighborhoods that are already served by quality schools.”

Those recommendations come from researchers at the Brookings Institution, the Urban Institute, and the 21st Century School Fund, all Washington-based organizations that collaborated on a 109-page research reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader and an accompanying 52-page policy reportRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader .

The reports are intended to help city leaders craft strategies to strengthen the public school sector—both traditional and charter campuses—and help attract families to the city and retain those already there who have preschool-age children.

Although population in the city increased by about 3 percent from 2000 to 2006, the child population (birth to age 17) remained relatively flat, and the public school enrollment, including charter schools, overall declined 8 percent, the researchers found.

With new efforts under way to improve public schooling—the city’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, now controls the system and selected a hard-charging chancellor, Michelle A. Rhee, to run the schools—the researchers said conditions are ripe for crafting new policies that would help boost public school enrollment.

“As the city looks to sustain and accelerate its recent growth and prosperity, retaining and attracting families with children plays a critical role,” the researchers wrote in the policy report. “A community’s ability to retain and attract a diverse mix of residents is an indicator of public confidence in the future.”

The District of Columbia’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education commissioned the study and companion policy recommendations.

Vol. 28, Issue 07, Page 5

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