The "Combined" Lottery

From the Washington Post:

The majority of D.C. charter schools and all schools in the city’s traditional school system plan to participate in a single unified lottery to determine enrollment for the 2014-2015 school year, officials in the office of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said.
Details about how the lottery will work will not be available for a few weeks, according to a new Web site,, which went live Monday and will serve as a central clearinghouse for information about the effort.
The Web site features a list of schools that plan to take part. It includes all traditional public schools, including selective magnets and out-of-boundary and early childhood programs. The list also includes more than 40 charter schools, which account for nearly nine out of 10 charter seats in preschool through 12th grade, according to Deputy Mayor of Education Abigail Smith.
The intent behind the unified lottery is to streamline an enrollment process that can be chaotic and frustrating for families and school administrators.
Smith worked with representatives from the traditional school system and charters to develop the shared lottery, and sketched the outlines of the effort when she first announced the effort in May.
Parents are likely to be asked to rank both traditional and charter schools in order of preference. Then a computer algorithm would run the lottery, admitting each child to only one school and maximizing the number of students who are matched with one of their top choices.
Currently, dozens of charter schools operate separate enrollment lotteries. The traditional school system holds its own lottery for students seeking a seat in pre-kindergarten or in magnet schools and other so-called out-of-boundary schools, which draw children from outside their neighborhoods.
Children can win admission to multiple schools across both sectors, leaving other youngsters on long waiting lists that shift throughout the summer and into the fall as families decide where to enroll.
The unified lottery is meant to cut down on that waiting-list shuffle. It also allows parents to submit one application for all participating schools rather than juggling multiple forms.

This idea has been discussed in Boston.  Charters and district schools in a single application.  Add in METCO, I'd suggest, and offer access to Catholic schools and free tuition Jesuit schools like Epiphany. 

If it works well in DC, I'm hopeful it could happen here.  If it's a disaster, then I hope it doesn't. 

The fear is that if an anti-charter leader/group controls the "centralized process" -- even at some future date -- then havoc could ensue.  The upside beyond "simplicity for parents" is transparency of data -- who wants what?  Moreover, scholars can use this database to study all kinds of things. 

It's a good sign that several excellent DC charters, like EL Haynes, are on board.