By Nicole Davy, Parent and Board Member, DC Prep Public Charter School

As a parent in the District of Columbia, I know that public school choice is empowering.  The rich diversity of education options in our city means that families of all backgrounds can seek out and pursue the school environment and programming that meets their own unique needs.  That is exactly what my family was able to do for my son who is now in second grade at a terrific public charter school. And later this month, that is exactly what we are hoping to achieve for our daughter who is in the My School DC lottery for PreK-3 at the same school.    

My husband and I live in the Anacostia neighborhood of Ward 8.  We love our community and the people who call it home along with us.  When my son was about to turn three, we started looking at our educational options. We talked to a lot of friends, colleagues and neighbors.  We got a lot of perspective and we educated ourselves about the schools nearby our home.  

While there were many great options available to us, we fell in love with his eventual school—D.C. Prep.  It felt right from day one—filled with love and positivity—it was the kind of place where we could see him growing and succeeding. And that’s exactly what has happened.

As a family, we didn’t care if the school had a DCPS or a charter school sign on the front of the building—we just wanted a great school for our son.  We wanted a school that had strong academics, was close to our home, was safe and had the kind of programming that would engage our little learner. In today’s world, there is so much division. In the public debate about public schools, that can be especially true.  But the reality is that most parents are not looking to “pick a side” in these debates. The only side that we are on is the side of our children and finding the school that is right for them.  

My son’s success and our family’s love of his school pushed me to recently join the DC Prep school board as a parent representative.  From that position, I see the difference our school is making. It’s keeping families like mine in the District and in its public schools. It’s teaching our children how to be kinder, more empathetic, and productive members of the community. 

Most importantly our school is providing a strong and supportive academic and social environment to many students who face challenges that many of us cannot even begin to understand. Nearly 70 percent of our students meet the District’s definition of “at-risk”—they receive public benefits, are in the foster care system, are “overage” for their grade or are homeless.  The District provides additional funds to support our “at-risk” student population through a special funding weight, but there’s room to do more. 

With increased “at-risk” funding, schools across the District could provide more supports for students who face the greatest challenges.  Our DC Prep schools are closing big achievement gaps between at-risk students and not at-risk students. With greater investment in these students, we could close those gaps event faster.

There is room for us to do even more for students who face the most barriers to success. Too few students in our city have ready access to great schools like DC Prep—schools that are literally changing lives for the better every single day. But in my home Ward, just 11 percent of schools are rated as high performing.  On the other side of the city in Ward 3, 100 percent of the schools get top ratings.  We should do everything we can to ensure there are high-quality schools throughout the city and at the same time make sure that the students who most need those great schools—our most disadvantaged students—have access to them. 

While people of means have always been able to choose their neighborhood or which private school to send their children to, not all of us are so fortunate. What we do have, however, is a robust system of public school choice. Having that right to public school choice is something our city’s families value—71 percent of students go to a public school of choice. Despite what you might see on Twitter some days, District families want to see public school choice continue to grow and flourish. Because, again, when it comes down to it, we all want the same thing: a high-quality school that’s right for our children.

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