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The high school assignment map released last nightTwo months after releasing a radical set of proposals to overhaul the city’s school assignment policies that had many parents worried, city officials have settled on a more moderate redrawing of school boundaries and a simplification of the pathways between them.

The draft proposal unveiled last night by the Advisory Committee on School Assignment, led by Deputy Mayor for Education Abigail Smith, would largely retain the city’s system of school boundaries and feeders, while making it less porous and confusing. As the proposal notes, under the current system, 22 percent of D.C. public school students have the right to attend multiple schools. This proposal would create a simple map of elementary school zones, with each student attending the school in his or her zone and then moving on to the middle and high school to which the elementary school is assigned.

That differs strongly from two of the three proposals released in April, one of which would have given each student multiple elementary and middle school options and the other of which would have created a citywide lottery for high school, abolishing any sense of certainty. The third proposal, dubbed Policy Option B, was similar to the proposal released last night, with a few key differences in school boundaries.

Many parents will no doubt find the latest proposal a relief after the uproar over the earlier drafts. Families that live in-boundary for highly regarded schools, like Wilson High School in Tenleytown, will retain their automatic right to attend those schools. And certain neighborhoods will remain tied to popular schools that aren’t necessarily geographically logical. Families in Mount Pleasant who attend Bancroft Elementary School, for example, will continue to be able to go to Alice Deal Middle School and Wilson High School, even though Mount Pleasant is separated from most of the rest of the Deal and Wilson boundaries by Rock Creek Park. Likewise, students who attend the middle school at Oyster-Adams in Woodley Park, who under the earlier Policy Option B would have been moved from Wilson to lower-performing Cardozo High School, will retain the right to attend overcrowded Wilson.

The elementary and middle school assignment mapBut parents in other neighborhoods are likely to continue putting up a fight. Much of the Southwest quadrant, previously in boundary for Wilson, has been reassigned to Eastern High School on Capitol Hill. The Crestwood neighborhood, currently able to attend Wilson, has been moved to struggling Roosevelt High School in Petworth.

Roosevelt could be a major beneficiary of the changes. The proposal would reopen the recently shuttered MacFarland Middle School adjacent to Roosevelt, absorbing graduates of elementary schools like the rapidly improving Powell nearby. That could provide a pipeline of successful and motivated students into a high school that has posted among the worst test scores in the city.

The changes would begin for new students—-those who just moved to their neighborhood, who are coming to DCPS from charter schools, or who are beginning their first year at a school—-in the 2015-2016 school year. Students and their siblings who were already enrolled at their in-boundary school but have been rezoned to a new school will have the option of attending either.

The proposal sets aside 10 percent of seats at elementary schools, as well as 10 percent of seats in the first grade of middle and high school (sixth and ninth, respectively), for out-of-boundary students, with priority given to students with a sibling at the school, “at-risk” students, and certain students who live nearby.

The plan calls for another comprehensive review of student assignment policies in 2022, and every 10 years thereafter. And the current plan, as the committee takes pains to indicate, still isn’t final.

“This preliminary proposal represents our best effort to find solutions based on an enormous amount of data and public input,” the committee writes. “We release these draft recommendations knowing full well they are not perfect. In particular, we seek additional public feedback on the proposed boundary changes and feeder pathways.”

There are three upcoming public meetings where parents and community members can provide their feedback:

  • June 16th6 – 8PM, Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place, SE
  • June 17th6 – 8PM, Dunbar High School, 101 N Street, NW
  • June 19th6 – 8PM, Takoma Education Campus, 7010 Piney Branch Road, NW