Enrollment Projection Methodology


D.C. Public Schools’ enrollment projections analyze current trends to make a prediction about enrollment 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 uses this methodology to calculate total school-wide enrollment, special education, and English learner projections. The analysis builds upon a ‘cohort-survival method,’ a commonly employed projection methodology for school districts. The cohort method relies on the last three years of October 5th[1] enrollment to identify the average change in class size from one grade to the next for non-entry level grades.

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.

In response to COVID-19, this year DCPS specifically adjusted our formula at 1st grade for schools with Kindergarten class sizes at below typical levels. Specifically, we assumed that any school that experienced a 10 student or greater enrollment decrease in Kindergarten in SY20-21 compared to SY19-20 would likely see half of those students return to 1st grade the following year once buildings reopened. This change was adopted to address a one-year decline in Kindergarten enrollment, which was heavily influenced by COVID-19, and to prevent potentially under-projecting 1st grade for the 2021-22 school year as buildings re-open.

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 buildings reopen in 2021. In most cases this held Early Childhood Enrollment steady to pre-COVID-19 trends.

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. During a review period, principals review and 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.