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District of Columbia Public Schools

District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is the local, traditional public school system of Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States. DCPS should not be confused with the independently governed DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS), which also operates in Washington, D.C.

Facilities reform legislation in DC has led to many school openings and closings. The most recent closure announcement is that River Terrace Elementary School and Shaed Education Campus are shutting their doors at the end of the 2010–2011 and 2011–2012 school years, respectively. Students attending River Terrace Elementary School will transition with Emery Education Campus to the Langley Building. In addition, the Montessori program is expanding into the Montessori School (PS-5th grade). A part of this will be the Jefferson 6th Grade Academy, which will only house 6th grade students. As of the 2009–2010 school year, there was a total enrollment of 43,866 students and 4,017 classroom teachers. The current student to teacher ratio is 10.92, an improvement from the 2006–07 ratio of 13.5. However, student enrollment was at a peak of 72,850 students with a much larger staff totaling 12,000. The reason for this sudden enrollment drop in DCPS is that the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 separated DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) from District of Columbia Public Schools.

In the graduating class of spring 2008, the average freshman graduation rate for DCPS was 56%Â compared with a national average of 74.9%. This constituted a large drop from the freshman graduation rate of 68.4% in 2002 and 68.8% as recently as 2005. In just the 2008Ö09 school year alone, 1,075 black students dropped out of high school. This figure raises concern since there were 1,246 students that dropped out of DCPS schools that year. However, these numbers are not meant to be misleading; the 62.8% freshman graduation rate of black students in 2008 was above the state average.

Within DCPS, schools are classified as either a "neighborhood school" or a "destination school." Neighborhood schools are elementary or secondary schools assigned to students based on his or her address. Destination schools are feeder-schools for elementary or secondary institutions from a school a student is already attending. Since the fall of 2009, students may choose a destination school, regardless of their neighborhood location. Locations of all of the schools and the neighborhood divides can be found on the DCPS website.

The D.C. Council passed the Mayor's proposal into law but since the change amended the Home Rule Act, the change needed to gain Federal approval before taking effect. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced H.R. 2080, a bill to amend the D.C. Home Rule Charter Act to provide for the Mayor's proposal. H.R. 2080 was passed by the United States House of Representatives under an expedited procedure on May 8, 2007 by a voice vote. After three U.S. Senators (Ben Cardin of Maryland, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Carl Levin of Michigan) initially placed "holds" on the bill to prevent its consideration in the United States Senate, the Senate agreed to pass H.R. 2080 without amendment on May 22, 2007 by unanimous consent. On May 31, 2007, the bill was presented to the President and President Bush signed H.R. 2080 into law on June 1, 2007. After the standard Congressional review period expired on June 12, 2007, the Mayor's office had direct control of the Superintendent and the school budget. On June 12, Mayor Fenty appointed Michelle Rhee the new Chancellor, replacing Superintendent Clifford B. Janey.

In accordance with Section 1116, a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), entitled "Academic Assessment and Local Education Agency and School Improvement", the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) of the District of Columbia oversees compliance with Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). A large portion of meeting AYP is based on standardized-tests performance; the District used the summative assessment called the District of Columbia Comprehensive Assessment System ("DC CAS") through the 2013-2014 school year, after which it switched to tools from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the National Center and State Collaborative (NCSC).

Many of the District's public schools are undergoing evolving relationships with the central office as they seek to compete for students leaving the system for charter schools. According to school choice researcher Erin Dillon, "In its winning application for federal Race to the Top funds, DCPS, for example, touted its three models for autonomous schools: The aptly named 'Autonomous Schools,' which are granted autonomy as a reward for high performance; 'Partnership Schools,' which are run by outside organizations that are granted autonomy in the hope of dramatically improving performance; and the 'D.C. Collaborative for Change,' or DC3, a joint effort of some of the District’s highest- and lowest-performing schools that have been granted autonomy as a tool for innovating with curriculum and professional development. (Meanwhile, highly autonomous charter schools, a growing presence in the District of Columbia, educate almost 40 percent of the city’s public school students.).

In 2018, it was revealed by WAMU and NPR that progress achieved by the school district in relation to graduation rates the year prior had been inflated by high schools who granted diplomas to students who should have failed according to city law. According to The Washington Post, only 46 percent of the school district's public school students were on track to graduate in 2018 after the school system began to adhere to stricter attendance policies.

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