Who are DC’s students?

Nearly 95,000 students attend DC public schools. Four in 10 students are considered “at-risk for academic failure,” a designation by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education that includes students in foster care, students who experience homelessness, students on public assistance, and more.

  • 89% of students are students of color.
  • 65% of students identify as Black.
  • 11% of students are English Language Learners (ELLs). ELLs in DC speak 117 different languages, including Spanish, Amharic, French, Chinese, and Russian.
  • 16% of students have disabilities.
What’s DC’s education story?

We are a single city and a state all at once. Decades ago, DC Public Schools (DCPS) was the poorest performing urban school district in the nation; today, it’s the fastest improving urban school district in the nation. DC also has robust public charter schools, which are open to all students in DC.

Our public schools have made significant achievement gains for students, but we need to do more to ensure all students are being well-served.

Our public schools have more teachers of color than the national average, but we need to do more to attract, retain, and support teachers of color.

Our public schools have provided more advanced courses, extracurricular activities, clubs, and art and music programs, but we need to do more to ensure all students can access programs.

Our public schools have seen steady investment over the last decade, but we need to ensure that funding is equitably distributed to support the students who need it most.

How are students doing?

The pandemic has had an outsized impact on students and especially students who are considered “at-risk.”

According to EmpowerK12, in School Year 2020-21:

  • Students in grades K-8 ended the year with lower math and reading achievement compared to pre-pandemic.
  • Students designated as at-risk, Black students, and Latinx students were disproportionately impacted.
  • These findings are similar to national studies on unfinished learning.

When it comes to student’s well-being, EmpowerK12 finds:

  • About 1 in every 10 elementary school students experienced significant well-being challenges. In middle school, it was 1 out of every 8 students.
  • Most students are feeling better about life now that they are back to in-person learning, but some students still need additional well-being support.
  • But students experiencing hardships, such as food insecurity, living in unsafe neighborhoods, and experiencing homelessness report much lower levels of well-being.
What’s possible in DC schools?

So much more! We believe that in order for DC students to succeed, we need to invest in our schools, educators, and — most critically — our students. We believe that we can be a city that:

  •  Makes all education decisions based on the needs of our young people, especially those with the most needs;
  • Listens and responds to the wants and needs of DC’s families.
  • Supports every school in providing every student with a great public education.
  • Trusts education leaders to provide the teaching and learning that students need to be successful.
  • Provides opportunities for every family to access the school that will help them succeed and achieve their dreams.
What do voters think?

In a January 2022 poll, DC voters believed:

  • DC education is going in the right direction
  • The top education priorities are: making sure there is equal funding for all students, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring a high-quality education for every student.
  • Creating programs in schools and internships to prepare the next generation of Black and brown educators to work in our schools is an important strategy.
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