Online common application may help DC specialized high schools compete for top students
In an effort to be more competitive and user-friendly, DC Public Schools has created a new online application process for applying to its specialized high schools. The new common application will mean less work for parents and a more streamlined process for all, but DCPS will need to take care not to exclude students with limited access to the Internet.
DC's specialized schools select students through an application process, open to any DC resident who meets school requirements. These include Banneker Academic Senior High School, Columbia Heights Education Campus, Ellington School of the Arts, McKinley Technology High School, Phelps Senior High School, School Without Walls Senior High School, and the Washington Metropolitan High School.
Many parents choose these schools because they have a reputation for better preparing students for college and specialized careers. Students from Banneker, School Without Walls, and Wilson obtain admissions to top universities each year.
Phelps, McKinley, and Washington Metropolitan are more recent additions. Reconstituted in 2008, Phelps is the first public high school in the country to offer both college preparatory and vocational education dedicated to the design professions and construction trades. Washington Metropolitan School also opened in 2008, as a part of the Big Picture Learning network of schools. Like Phelps, McKinley Technology High School was reconstituted in 2004, and is the only STEM focused high school in the district.
This year, DCPS has instituted an online-only common application for these schools, and it will be the only application accepted.
In the past, parents have had to contend with a more complicated application process involving separate applications to multiple schools. Administrative hurdles may discourage parents from choosing to stay in the District for high school. Creating a systematic process will help DCPS compete with private, parochial, and charter schools for top students.
The common application may also bring about more equity in admissions, as the application may serve to expose students to more schools then they would have originally considered.
This could create some challenges for those students who do not have access to the Internet at home. Therefore, DCPS should consider continuing to offer the paper application through at least the first year. However, as with many policies, DCPS is rolling out the new online-only application fully instead of starting it as a pilot, putting the onus on parents and students to figure out this new system in real time.
The schools are currently beginning their admissions cycles for next year. With exception of Ellington School for the Arts (due December
18th 15th), the deadline for the application is January 6th, 2012. All the schools will hold open houses in November. If you're applying for your child, please share your experiences.
Update: Fred Lewis from DCPS contacted us with a correction to the date of the Ellington application. Also, he noted that the common application will go live on November 18.
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