Parent Advisory Council A Sounding Board for My School DC

My School DC Parent Advisory Council Op-Ed

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Students at Payne Elementary, a DCPS School.

March 29 was an exciting day for DC families – it’s Lottery Results Day! This is when we learn which schools our children are matched with for the next school year. For the students, it means new friends, new schools, and the beginning of new adventures; and simply, the thrill of what lies ahead for their next step in education. For parents and guardians, Lottery Results Day can be a bit more stressful, as the uncertainty gives way either to the satisfaction of being matched with a school of their choice or the anxiety of waitlists.

DC’s lottery system has been vastly improved compared to the days when there were dozens of different lottery systems for individual schools resulting in an overwhelming juggling act for families seeking a fair shot at the school of their choice. It is due to family advocacy and visionary leadership of key stakeholders that we now have the My School DC common lottery system, established in 2013 to create a centralized process that allows for families to apply for access to a majority of the two sectors of public education. For the past six years, the common lottery has simplified the application process to over 200 public schools. Students submit a ranked list of their preferred schools, and the My School DC algorithm determines a match for each applicant. The applicant pool has grown from 17,000 to 25,000, and each year over 80% of students who are matched through the lottery are paired with one of their top three school choices.

The system is managed by an eight-person My School DC team within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) that conducts a series of outreach events, including workshops with families and communities to inform them about the lottery process and gain perspective on concerns about the lottery system. Annually, the My School DC team hosts EdFEST – the largest educational festival in the District of Columbia – that provides access to all schools that opt to participate in the universal lottery application for DC Public Schools (DCPS) and public charter schools. EdFEST also kicks off the annual school lottery season, which continues with school open houses, community engagement, partnerships, and neighborhood application seminars.

As part of their engagement process, the My School DC team meets regularly with us: the My School DC Parent Advisory Council (PAC), a group of parents from both sectors and all eight wards of the city who represent and provide a sounding board for the desires and needs of participating families. As parents who have a variety of experiences navigating the DC school lottery with children at different stages of their development and different points of their educational journey, we are encouraged by the improvements made to date of the current lottery system in DC.

The PAC works to help improve the school lottery system. We are proud of the platform that My School DC provides for us to offer insight and advice to impact further improvements. In the last few years, members of the My School DC PAC have contributed family-centered perspectives which include, Questions by Parents for Parents available for families when researching school choices on MySchoolDC.org; contributing to enhancing the resources available for Pre-K parents when applying for the first time; and advocating for the Common Lottery Board to display historical waitlist data to better aid parents when making their selections.

We are proud of our accomplishments, but it is evident that there is still a lot more work to be done to address the persistent inequity in this great city’s public education system. The My School DC PAC strives to meet these challenges by coming together to analyze what’s working, to provide feedback we hear and experience, and work with the My School DC team to improve access to a wider variety of families navigating the current school lottery system. We look forward to continuing our work as an advisory body to the My School DC team and including more input from a wider variety of DC families participating in the school lottery system when advising on policy and programming. For additional questions or to keep up with our PAC, please visit the My School DC website.

The My School DC Parent Advisory Council is an advisory council to My School DC comprised of 23 volunteer parent representatives who reside in the eight wards of the city and who are parents of traditional and public charter school students. Contact My School DC Director of Partnerships and Engagement Aryan Bocquet at info.myschooldc@dc.gov?