Perceptions of D.C. Public Schools Among Stayers and Leavers

Perceptions of D.C. Public Schools Among Stayers and Leavers

SSRS conducted the surveys among parents of school age children in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding regions in Maryland and Virginia on behalf of the D.C. Policy Center.

Parents’ perceptions of public schools are an important source of feedback for policymakers and District school leaders, who frequently hear from the parents and caregivers of D.C.’s public school students (including both District of Columbia Public Schools, or DCPS, and public charter schools). However, it is rare that those parents who decided not to enroll their children in public schools or took their children out after initially enrolling them express their reasons. In the District, this could be a significant gap in knowledge: Over 40 percent of children born in the District leave the public school system before the start of high school to attend private schools or public schools elsewhere.

Based on a regional survey of parents conducted in January and February of 2021, this report presents findings on the dynamics behind these decisions to stay or leave. The results capture both those parents who stayed with D.C.’s public schools and the “Leavers”—those who once lived in D.C. and did send or could have sent a child to a DCPS or D.C. public charter school, but then left either by moving to a nearby jurisdiction or enrolling their child in a private school. Given the timing of the field work, the report also presents findings on shifts in enrollment during the pandemic.