DC Schools: Closing the Gaps

DC’s public schools have made incredible strides for students over the past decade. More families are choosing to enroll in DC’s district and charter schools; performance is improving on national and state exams and more students are graduating from high school on time.

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DC Schools Are Making Strides


After decades of decline, enrollment in DC’s public schools has increased
more than 20% since 2008.


4th graders in DC increased reading proficiency by 10% between 2011 and 2015, leaping ahead of peers in other cities.

DC students also made tremendous gains on the DC CAS assessment.

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Challenges Remain for Students and Families

English Language Arts

Many student subgroups face major gaps in college and career readiness
as compared to their peers.

% of students who met or exceeded grade level learning standards


Black, Hispanic, low-income and special education students are significantly
more likely to be suspended
than white students.


In 2017, 34% of DC students
(7,460 students) were not matched with any of the schools they chose through the My School DC lottery.

A Path Forward for DC Schools

There’s never been a better time to address issues of school quality and equity on behalf of DC’s students. Our public school enrollment continues to grow and our elected and district officials are committed to improving our schools with support from funders and community advocates. Through a dedicated focus on growing high-quality schools, DC can become a national model as the first city to guarantee every student access to an excellent education.

Over the next five years, Education Forward DC is working to double the number of underserved students who are college and career ready. We provide funding and strategic support to high-impact leaders aligned with the following strategies to help us reach this ambitious goal:


A Great School for Every Student in DC

We are working towards a city where every student goes to an excellent school, every day. To implement this vision, we are providing funding and strategic support to:

  • Help successful local charter and district schools grow and expand
  • Start new schools where they are needed
  • Help schools innovate and bring in new leaders to better meet student needs
  • Enable schools to access the buildings they need to run excellent programs for students


Schools Led By Excellent Principals and Teachers

Students thrive with great school leaders who can recruit and develop talented teachers. We are supporting efforts to:

  • Help schools find, attract and train the best teachers and leaders
  • Help leaders nurture and retain excellent teachers


A School System Designed for DC Families

DC schools should reflect the citywide diversity of student needs and interests, so that every student can grow and learn in a setting that works for them. We are working to make a better match between the needs of families and the city’s schools by investing in organizations that will:

  • Gather input from families about what’s working and what they want for students, and amplify their voice to inform school decisions
  • Analyze the school options that currently exist for families across the city and forecast what’s needed for the future
  • Help families get the information they want and need about schools in the city