Enrollment Projection Methodology

D.C. Public Schools’ enrollment projections are an estimate of enrollment at each school on October 5th of the subsequent school year. October 5th is the official enrollment audit date set by the Office of the State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). DCPS analyzes past enrollment trends to calculate total enrollment at each school, enrollment of students who receive special education services, and enrollment of students who are English learners.

The analysis of enrollment trends include a ‘grade progression ratio’ (sometimes referred to as a ‘cohort-survival rate’) – a projection calculation commonly used by school districts. The grade progression ratio relies on at least three years of October 5th[1] enrollment to identify the average change in class size from one grade to the next.

In the example below, trends show that this school typically has a larger second grade class compared to its first-grade class. In other words, the second-grade class enrolls more than 100% of their first-grade class. This makes the average grade progression ratio more than 100

In the example below, trends show that this school typically has a larger second grade class compared to its first-grade class. In other words, the second-grade class enrolls more than 100% of their first-grade class. This makes the average cohort survival rate more than 100%.

[1] Due to October 5th falling on a Saturday in 2019, the actual date of the audit was October 7th.

The rising enrollment is then averaged to account for fluctuation in each year, and multiplied against the rising second grade class (current first grade class):

The result for this second-grade class is 86 students. When the result is a fraction, rounding up or down is determined by looking to the most immediate years of enrollment. In the previous school year, this school has gained a few students throughout the year. In this case, we would round up to account for the possibility that the grade gains a student.

Calculating enrollment projections relies on enrollment of past years. Knowing the past few years of enrollment were heavily impacted by COVID-19, DCPS adjusted the enrollment projections process in two specific ways. In school-grades in which there was significant fluctuation in enrollment over the past few years, DCPS calculated average grade progression ratios with the year of the lowest grade progression rate omitted. At any school where the SY22-23 K class is smaller than previous years, we increased the expected grade progression ratio into 1st grade by 1.5%. This was done to avoid under-projecting grade 1 for SY23-24.

In Kindergarten, 6th, and 9th grades, the process combines three factors to build a projection.

Then, all three factors are combined (Feeder Pattern Enrollment, New In-Boundary Enrollment, and New Out-of-Boundary Enrollment) to make a final projection. The final projection is compared to historical school trends to see if the class size reflects recent enrollment trends. Where a Kindergarten, 6th, or 9th grade projection significantly differs from a school’s recent trends, the School Planning Team reviews all three prior pieces to understand why.

Early Childhood Projections

Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes are projected based on the number and types of classrooms each school offers. Each pre-kindergarten (PK) classroom is generally projected to reach its seat capacity, except for a few seats reserved for children with developmental needs who are placed through DCPS’ Early Stages office.

In response to COVID-19, this year DCPS assumed that additional PK3 & 4 students would likely return as families become more comfortable sending young children to school. In most cases this held Early Childhood Enrollment steady to pre-COVID-19 numbers.

ECE class sizes are regulated by D.C. Municipal Regulations and are specifically outlined in the circles below, along with our projection approach in each grey box:

Enrollment Projection Principal Review and Adjustment

Once the projections for the total school-wide enrollment, special education, English learner, and early childhood have been calculated, each school’s enrollment projection is reviewed to determine if its grade level growth aligns with contemporary trends. If a contemporary trend suggests a change in the enrollment growth pattern at a school that is not captured in the projection, then the projection may be adjusted to reflect the change in trends.

Specific programming changes are also reviewed at this time. The changes may include grade configuration changes, new or expanded programming, and temporary or permanent location changes, along with other place-based circumstances that may result in a smaller or larger class size by grade for the following school year.

Finally, each school’s enrollment projection is shared with its respective principal, Local School Advisory Team (LSAT), and instructional superintendent. Principals review and can propose changes to their projections. Any proposed change requires a written rationale, and all proposals are reviewed and considered. Upon review, a final decision is made to either accept or reject (in full or in part) a principal’s proposed changes. A rationale is provided to each principal based on their enrollment request. Once adjustments are finalized, final projections are shared with principals.