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The Bowser Administration Releases Preliminary DC Enrollment Numbers for the 2020-21 School Year

Friday, November 6, 2020
Increase in compulsory grades, drops in adult and early childhood education programs drive overall year-to-year decrease

Today, the Bowser Administration announced that the number of students enrolled in public schools in Washington, DC in the 2020-21 school year decreased slightly compared to 2019-20 enrollment, with 93,987 students enrolled in District public and public charter schools, according to preliminary data released by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). These unaudited numbers show a less than 1 percent decrease overall across DC – or 568 fewer students – compared to last school year’s count, with the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency likely driving the year-to-year decrease, particularly among non-compulsory-age programs. Compulsory grades, however, – kindergarten through Grade 12 – saw an overall enrollment increase of 949 students in the 2020-21 school year compared to 2019-20.

Enrollment at DC Public Schools (DCPS) decreased from 51,037 students in the 2019-20 school year to 49,958 students in the 2020-21 school year, a 2.11 percent decrease compared to final, audited numbers released in early 2020. Enrollment at DC’s public charter schools increased from 43,518 students in the 2019-20 school year to 44,100 students in the 2020-19 school year, a 1.34 percent increase over final, audited numbers for last school year released in early 2020.

We will continue to invest in our students and teachers to ensure all DC students have equitable access to a quality education regardless of whether they attend school in person, through distance learning or a combination,” said Interim State Superintendent of Education Shana Young. “OSSE will continue to work closely with LEAs, schools and educators to support them as they’re providing important instructional, socio-emotional and other supports to our students and families.”  

In September, Mayor Bowser launched the $3.3 million Internet for All initiative to provide free internet access for up to 25,000 disconnected low-income students and families from DCPS and public charter schools. The funding, allocated from OSSE, will cover SNAP and TANF eligible families for the 2020-21 school year and follows efforts in the delivery of more than 16,000 technology devices to schools across all eight wards as a part of the Mayor’s Empowered Learner’s Initiative, representing an investment of $4.6 million.

Adult Education, Early Childhood Education and Homeschooling

The overall enrollment decrease DC has seen in the 2020-21 preliminary count comes from a drop in adult education and early childhood program enrollment, represented in the chart below, resulting from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Adult Education and Early Childhood Education Enrollment
School Year Adult Early Childhood
Pre-K 3 Pre-K 4 Total
2020-21 Unaudited Counts** 4,877 5,056  6,923 11,979
2019-20 Final Audit Counts 5,482 5,800 7,085 12,885
One Year Decrease  -605 -744 -162 -906
One Year % Change  -11.04 -12.83 -2.29 7.03

While adult education and early childhood education programs saw decreases, the number of students in homeschooling programs approved by OSSE increased in the 2020-21 school year, compared to 2019-20. OSSE reports a preliminary number of 602 students registered for home schooling in 2020-21, compared to 389 in the previous year. All families of compulsory aged students who wish to home school must register with OSSE and meet certain standards by submitting an application, which OSSE reviews and approves. OSSE will report final home school numbers along with the final enrollment audit numbers in early 2021.

As the District’s state education agency, OSSE conducts an annual enrollment audit of public schools. The preliminary numbers above are based on a snapshot of data certified by local education agencies in October. This marks the beginning of an enrollment audit and certification process that takes several months and is conducted in collaboration with an independent auditor. The chart below tracks enrollment trends since 2007 with preliminary unaudited numbers for the 2020-21 school year. Final, audited enrollment figures will be published by OSSE in early 2021.

Public School Enrollment Since 2007
School Year DCPS Charter State
2020-21** 49,958 44,100 93,987*
2019-20 51,037 43,518 94,555
2018-19 49,056 43,960 93,016
2017-18 48,144 43,393 91,537
2016-17 48,555 41,506 90,061
2015-16 48,439 38,905 87,344
2014-15 47,548 37,684 85,403
2013-14 46,393 36,565 82,958
2012-13 45,557 34,673 80,230
2011-12 45,191 31,562 76,753
2010-11 45,631 29,366 74,997
2009-10 44,718 27,661 72,379
2008-09 45,190 25,729 70,919
2007-08 49,422 21,947 71,369

*Note: State-level enrollment subtotal does not equal DCPS + Charter totals due to student duplications. Duplications have been removed from the state level numbers, but may still exist at the sector level in these preliminary, unaudited figures.

**These figures represent preliminary data. Final audited enrollment figures will be published by OSSE in early 2021.

Visit OSSE’s website for more enrollment data and information about the annual enrollment audit.