District of Columbia Public Schools

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District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is the local, traditional public school system of Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. DCPS should not be confused with the independently governed DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS), which also operates in Washington, D.C.

Composition and enrollment

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) consists of 111 [2] [3] of the 238 public elementary and secondary schools and learning centers located in Washington, D.C. These schools have a grade span of prekindergarten to twelfth grade and, as of 2000, a kindergarten entrance age of 5 years old. [4] School is compulsory for DCPS students between the ages of 5 and 18. [5] DCPS schools typically start the last Monday in August. The school day is generally approximately six hours.

The ethnic breakdown of students enrolled in 2014 was 67% Black, 17% Hispanic (of any race), 12% non-Hispanic White, and 4% of other races. As of 2014, the District itself has a population that is 44% White (includes White Hispanics), 49% Black and 10% Hispanic (of any race). [2] Gentrification and demographic changes in many DC neighborhoods has increased the White and Hispanic populations in the city, while reducing the Black population. In 2008, DCPS was 84.4% Black, 9.4% Hispanic (of any race), 4.6% non-Hispanic White, and 1.6% of other races. [7]

Facilities reform legislation in DC has led to many school openings and closings. The most recent closure announcement is that River Terrace Elementary School and Shaed Education Campus are shutting their doors at the end of the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 school years, respectively. Students attending River Terrace Elementary School will transition with Emery Education Campus to the Langley Building. In addition, the Montessori program is expanding into the Montessori School (PS-5th grade). A part of this will be the Jefferson 6th Grade Academy, which will only house 6th grade students. As of the 2009–2010 school year, there was a total enrollment of 43,866 students and 4,017 classroom teachers. The current student to teacher ratio is 10.92, an improvement from the 2006–07 ratio of 13.5. [8] However, student enrollment was at a peak of 72,850 students with a much larger staff totaling 12,000. The reason for this sudden enrollment drop in DCPS is that the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 separated DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) from District of Columbia Public Schools.

The District of Columbia passed charter school legislation in 1996, which went into effect in September 1999. The legislation gave the District the power to grant charters for 15 years. Although this is longer than the traditional 3–5 year term observed in 31 other states, a required review takes place every 5 years. 4.4% of public school students enrolled in a charter school for the 1999 academic school year; the 28 schools had a total enrollment of approx. 3,000 students. After legislation was enacted in 2007, chartering authority was placed under the D.C. Public Charter School Board and disaffiliated from DCPS. The governance of DCPS was also restructured, and the district was placed under the control of the Mayor. In 2010 about 38% of Washington, D.C. public school students attended 60 charter schools. There are 52 public charter schools in the District, with 93 campuses and 30,000 students. The total number of public charter schools has been reduced from 60 schools on 96 campuses in 2008–09 to 53 schools on 98 campuses as of the 2011–12 school year. However, the addition of grades to the charter schools are still increasing enrollment and decreasing from DCPS’ numbers.



In 2009, 43% of all DCPS public school students were overweight or obese. This was one of the highest rates in the United States.

Dropout rate

In the graduating class of spring 2008, the average freshman graduation rate for DCPS was 56%‚ compared with a national average of 74.9%. This constituted a large drop from the freshman graduation rate of 68.4% in 2002 and 68.8% as recently as 2005. In just the 2008–09 school year alone, 1,075 black students dropped out of high school. This figure raises concern since there were 1,246 students that dropped out of DCPS schools that year. [2] However, these numbers are not meant to be misleading; the 62.8% freshman graduation rate of black students in 2008 was above the state average.


Within DCPS, schools are classified as either a "neighborhood school" or a "destination school." Neighborhood schools are elementary or secondary schools assigned to students based on his or her address. Destination schools are feeder-schools for elementary or secondary institutions from a school a student is already attending. Since the fall of 2009, students may choose a destination school, regardless of their neighborhood location. Locations of all of the schools and the neighborhood divides can be found on the DCPS website. [2]

For the school year ending in spring 2007, the DCPS was governed by the D.C. Board of Education, with eleven members, including two students who had the right to debate but not to vote. Five members were elected and four were appointed by the Mayor. The Board established DCPS policies and employed a superintendent to serve as chief executive officer of the school district, responsible for day-to-day operations. Four Board members represented specific geographical boundaries and the Board President was elected at large. One condition of the District of Columbia Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 was the creation of DCPS as a separate cabinet-level agency from the D.C. Board of Education. This moved DCPS within the executive branch of the District of Columbia government—specifically, under Mayoral control. Currently, this means that DCPS is subordinate to District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser. D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty proposed putting the public schools under the direct control of the Mayor's Office upon taking office in January 2007. However, this reform to District of Columbia Public Schools was encouraged by his predecessor and constituents at large. It also placed all of the District of Columbia public charter schools under the care of a new board—District of Columbia Public Charter School Board (PCSB). Although these schools were previously a part of DCPS, they are now considered to be a separate district controlled by the D.C. Public Charter School Board (PCSB).

The D.C. Council passed the Mayor's proposal into law but since the change amended the Home Rule Act, the change needed to gain Federal approval before taking effect. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced H.R. 2080, a bill to amend the D.C. Home Rule Charter Act to provide for the Mayor's proposal. H.R. 2080 was passed by the United States House of Representatives under an expedited procedure on May 8, 2007 by a voice vote. After three U.S. Senators (Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Carl Levin of Michigan) initially placed "holds" on the bill to prevent its consideration in the United States Senate, the Senate agreed to pass H.R. 2080 without amendment on May 22, 2007 by unanimous consent. On May 31, 2007, the bill was presented to the President and President Bush signed H.R. 2080 into law on June 1, 2007. After the standard Congressional review period expired on June 12, 2007, the Mayor's office had direct control of the Superintendent and the school budget. On June 12, Mayor Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee the new Chancellor, replacing Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003

In January 2004, Congress passed the D.C. School Choice Incentive Act of 2003. The law established a federally-funded private school voucher program known as the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP). The OSP distributes vouchers to low-income families to cover private school tuition. Because there are more eligible applicants than available vouchers, they are distributed by lottery. In 2010, a randomized controlled trial conducted under the auspices of the Department of Education examined the impacts of the OSP students, finding that it raised graduation rates. [2] Students who were offered vouchers had a graduation rate of 82%, while those who actually used their vouchers had a graduation rate of 91%. By comparison, the rate for students who did not receive vouchers was only 70%. The study received the Department of Education’s highest rating for scientific rigor. [2] Over 90% of the study’s participants were African American, and most of the remainder were Latino American. Further research found that students who received vouchers were 25% more likely to enroll in college than students with similar demographic characteristics who did not receive vouchers. [2]

D.C. Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007

The Council of the District of Columbia enacted the DC Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007. This act established a DC public school agency based on authority given to the council in the District of Columbia Home Rule Act of 1973. The Department of Education that was established under the Mayor triggered several changes. The largest was already discussed—DCPCS gained sole authority over chartering and charted schools, DCPS became subordinate to the Mayor’s office. Secondly, many smaller authoritative changes took place. The first is that the State Education Office (SEO) became the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The four subsections of the District were reaffirmed through location-based State Board of Education selectees. In addition, the smaller eight school election wards were reaffirmed. Finally, the Commission was established through this legislature. The "Commission" is the Interagency Collaboration and Services Integration Commission, which includes the Mayor, Chairman of the Council of the District of Columbia, Chief Judge of the DC Superior Family Court, Superintendent of Education, Chancellor of DCPS, Chair of DCPCSB and fourteen others. After the 2007–2008 school year, about one-fifth of the teachers and one-third of the principals resigned, retired, or were terminated from DCPS. A very strong negative impact was initially experienced by DCPS due to the loss. A GAO-conducted study. [2] recommended that the Mayor direct DCPS to establish planning processes for strikes and look to performance reviews from central offices to strengthen accountability. These recommendations were followed and accountability has increased through academic and financial report generation. Increased accountability made way for other small reforms. One example is the implementation of a requirement that students entering 9th grade are now required to sit down with a school counselor and construct a course-plan to reach graduation.

No Child Left Behind compliance

In accordance with Section 1116, a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), entitled "Academic Assessment and Local Education Agency and School Improvement", the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) of the District of Columbia oversees compliance with (AYP). A large portion of meeting AYP is based on standardized-tests performance; the District used the summative assessment called the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System ("DC CAS") through the 2013-2014 school year, after which it switched to tools from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC). [2] [2] [2]

Many schools are failing to meet AYP, even though DCPS educators offer support and tools to students to be academically successful. DCPS has created an evaluation tool to assess schools by more than their standardized test scores. They call this a Quality School Review, which uses the Effective Schools Framework [2] to assess schools through rubrics on topics such as classroom observations, interviews with parents, students, teachers, and school leadership, staff surveys and reviewing artifacts (i.e. handbooks, student work). [3] In 2007, Karin Hess of the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment conducted an analysis that has also gone into the alignment of DCPS standards and the "DC CAS Alt", the assessment for students with cognitive disabilities.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, DCPS had a budget of $1.2 billion and spent $29,409 per pupil in FY 2009–10. [3]

In 1989–90, DCPS reported that it had spent $10,200 (1999 adj. dollars) per pupil and a decade later, in 1999–2000, its reported per pupil expenditures had increased to $11,500. However, those figures likely underreport DCPS's actual total per pupil expenditures. In 2012, the Cato Institute's Andrew J. Coulson showed that DCPS's reported per pupil expenditures figures were based on incomplete data. [3] That year, the U.S. Census Bureau had reported that DCPS's 2008–09 per pupil expenditures were $18,181, but DCPS officials had neglected to include about $400 million in spending. Informed by Coulson's observations, the U.S. Census Bureau revised its data collection methods and reported that per pupil expenditures were $28,170. [3] Those revisions are reflected in the Bureau's 2009–10 reports.

In FY 2009–2010, the District received 6.7% of its total revenues for elementary and secondary education from federal sources. [3]


In 2008, in terms of testing 36% of students demonstrated proficiency in mathematics and 39% demonstrated proficiency in reading.

The average educator was paid $67,000 in 2010. A contract signed in 2010 was expected to raise that figure to $81,000 in 2012. [3]

Schools and locations

All DCPS schools are located in Washington, D.C., except Maya Angelou Academy ‚ which is located in Laurel, Maryland.

Many of the District's public schools are undergoing evolving relationships with the central office as they seek to compete for students leaving the system for charter schools. According to school choice researcher Erin Dillon, "In its winning application for federal Race to the Top funds, DCPS, for example, touted its three models for autonomous schools: The aptly named 'Autonomous Schools,' which are granted autonomy as a reward for high performance; 'Partnership Schools,' which are run by outside organizations that are granted autonomy in the hope of dramatically improving performance; and the 'D.C. Collaborative for Change,' or DC3, a joint effort of some of the District’s highest- and lowest-performing schools that have been granted autonomy as a tool for innovating with curriculum and professional development. (Meanwhile, highly autonomous charter schools, a growing presence in the District of Columbia, educate almost 40 percent of the city’s public school students.)" [3]

High schools

Traditional High Schools

Woodrow Wilson High School, Tenleytown
School name Students* Low grade High grade
Anacostia High School 449 9th 12th
Ballou High School 930 9th 12th
Calvin Coolidge High School 346 9th 12th
Dunbar High School 584 9th 12th
Eastern High School 818 9th 12th
H.D. Woodson Senior High School 634 9th 12th
Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School 668 9th 12th
Woodrow Wilson High School 1750 9th 12th

Selective High Schools

School name Students* Low grade High grade
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School 482 9th 12th
Bell Multicultural High School (CHEC) 288 9th 12th
Duke Ellington School of the Arts 537 9th 12th
McKinley Technology High School 619 9th 12th
Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School 328 9th 12th
School Without Walls High School 585 9th 12th

Middle Schools

School name Students* Low grade High grade
Alice Deal Middle School 1477 6th 8th
Brookland Middle School 254 6th 8th
Eliot-Hine Middle School 200 6th 8th
Hardy Middle School 374 6th 8th
Hart Middle School 349 6th 8th
Jefferson Middle School Academy 305 6th 8th
John Hayden Johnson Middle School 252 6th 8th
Kelly Miller Middle School 449 6th 8th
Kramer Middle School 193 6th 8th
MacFarland Middle School 72 6th 7th
McKinley Middle School 213 6th 8th
Sousa Middle School 255 6th 8th
Stuart-Hobson Middle School 441 6th 8th

Elementary Schools

School name Students* Low grade High grade
Aiton Elementary School 251 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Amidon-Bowen Elementary School 350 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Bancroft Elementary School 530 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Barnard Elementary School 649 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Beers Elementary School 464 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Brent Elementary School 404 Prekindergarten (3) 5th [3]
Bruce-Monroe Elementary School 473 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Bunker Hill Elementary School 195 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Burroughs Elementary School 290 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Burrville Elementary School 325 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Cleveland Elementary School 321 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
C.W. Harris Elementary School 285 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Drew Elementary School 253 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Garfield Elementary School 301 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Garrison Elementary School 253 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
H.D. Cooke Elementary School 416 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Hearst Elementary School 159 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Hendley Elementary School 405 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Houston Elementary School 338 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Hyde-Addison Elementary School 172 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Janney Elementary School 456 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
John Eaton Elementary School 413 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Ketcham Elementary School 413 Prekindergarten (3) 6th
Key Elementary School 217 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Kimball Elementary School 372 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
King Elementary School 464 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Lafayette Elementary School 517 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Langdon Elementary School 387 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Ludlow-Taylor Elementary 278 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Malcolm X Elementary School 562 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Mann Elementary School 233 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Maury Elementary School 402 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Miner Elementary School DCPS 462 Prekindergarten (3) 6th
Moten Elementary School 405 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Murch Elementary School 484 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Nalle Elementary School 459 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Noyes Elementary School 202 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Orr Elementary School 407 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Oyster Adams Bilingual School 635 Prekindergarten (4) 8th
Patterson Elementary School 324 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Payne Elementary School 274 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Peabody Elementary School 141 Prekindergarten (3) Kindergarten
Plummer Elementary School 357 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Powell Elementary School 322 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Randle Highlands Elementary 479 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Reed Elementary School 470 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Ross Elementary School 168 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Savoy Elementary School 385 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Seaton Elementary School 441 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Shepherd Elementary School 354 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Simon Elementary School 406 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Smothers Elementary School 267 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Stanton Elementary School 622 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Stoddert Elementary School 228 Prekindergarten (4) 5th
Thomas Elementary School 409 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Thomson Elementary School 276 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Tubman Elementary School 635 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Turner Elementary School 513 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Tyler Elementary School 290 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Van Ness Elementary School 250 Prekindergarten (3) 5th
Watkins Elementary School 436 1st 5th
Wilson Elementary School 495 Prekindergarten (3) 5th

Education Campuses

School name Students* Low grade High grade
Brightwood Education Campus 755 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Browne Education Campus 309 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Cardozo Education Campus 797 6th 12th
Columbia Heights Education Campus (CHEC) 1336 6th 12th
LaSalle-Backus Education Campus 369 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Leckie Education Campus 553 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Raymond Education Campus 613 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens 471 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Takoma Education Campus 468 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Truesdell Education Campus 679 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Walker-Jones Education Campus 451 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
West Education Campus 315 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Wheatley Education Campus 321 Prekindergarten (3) 8th
Whittier Education Campus 341 Prekindergarten (3) 8th

Alternative and Citywide Schools

School name Students Low grade High grade Type
538 Adult Adult Alternative
361 Prekindergarten (3) 8th Citywide
5 6th 12th Long-term suspended or expelled students
518 Prekindergarten (3) 5th Citywide
48 9th 12th Incarcerated students
266 9th 12th Students who have dropped out of school
131 3rd Adult Special Education
105 9th 10th Citywide
268 Adult Adult Alternative
307 Prekindergarten (3) 5th Citywide
125 8th 12th Alternative
Youth Services Center 88 7th 12th Students charged with crimes


Below is a partial list of superintendents and chancellors of the D.C. Public School system. The head of the school system was known as "Superintendent" until 2007. After June 2007, it was known as "Chancellor".

  • Hugh J. Scott – September 1, 1970 to June 29, 1973 [3]
  • Floretta D. McKenzie – June 29, 1973 to August 7, 1973 (acting) [3]
  • Barbara A. Sizemore – August 8, 1973 to October 9, 1975 [4]
  • Vincent E. Reed – October 9, 1975 to March 17, 1976 (acting); March 18, 1976 to December 31, 1980 [4]
  • James Guines – January 3, 1981 to June 17, 1981 (acting) [4]
  • Floretta D. McKenzie – July 1, 1981 to February 8, 1988 [4]
  • Andrew E. Jenkins – February 9, 1988 to May 24, 1988 (acting); May 25, 1988 to May 15, 1991 [4]
  • Franklin L. Smith – May 15, 1991 to November 4, 1996
  • Julius W. Becton, Jr. – November 5, 1996 to March 26, 1998 [4]
  • Arlene Ackerman – March 27, 1998 to July 17, 2000 [5]
  • Paul L. Vance – July 18, 2000 to November 14, 2003 [5]
  • Elfreda W. Massie – November 19, 2003 to April 21, 2004 (acting) [5]
  • Robert C. Rice – April 22, 2004 to September 14, 2004 (acting) [5]
  • Clifford P. Janey – September 15, 2004 to June 12, 2007 [5]
  • Michelle Rhee – June 12, 2007 to July 9, 2007 (acting); July 10, 2007 to October 30, 2010 [5]
  • Kaya Henderson – November 1, 2010 to June 21, 2011 (interim); June 22, 2011 to September 30, 2016 [2] [38]
  • John Davis – October 1, 2016 to February 1, 2017 (interim) [38]
  • Antwan Wilson – February 1, 2017 to present [2]

See also

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