Losing to Charters, D.C. Public Schools Aggressively Recruit Students

July 2, 2014

The District’s traditional public school system is sending principals out to knock on doors in a campaign to sell itself to city families, an aggressive move to boost enrollment and maintain market share after years of ceding ground to charter schools.

The move is a sign of the tremendous pressure on the District’s traditional public schools. Charter schools, which appeared less than two decades ago, now enroll nearly half the city’s public school students, and they continue to gain popularity. It is a trend that many believe threatens the long-term survival of the traditional school system.

To train principals in old-fashioned door-to-door canvassing, school officials have hired political campaign experts who helped Barack Obama win the presidency. These experts are also adapting data-analytic methods used to target voters in 2008 and 2012 to help identify those students most likely to bolt the school system and, therefore, most in need of personal attention.

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