School Daze: Get Help with the PK Lottery

Children at Maury Elementary playground.

Are you a Hill parent stressing out about the PK3 lottery? That was me last year. For all of you newbie lottery players out there, I wanted to share what I learned from my experience, answer some basic questions, and point you to resources. I am definitely not an expert, so at the end, I’ll introduce you to a couple of experts and tell you about upcoming events where you can learn more.

The following is aimed at first-time PK3 or PK4 parents on the Hill who don’t already have an older sibling enrolled.

How do I get started?

The place to start is My School DC, From there, go to Schools > School Finder and enter your address. On the left, you can filter by grade, star rating, offerings, etc. Schools will be displayed on the map and listed with your inbound (IB) school first.

What are the “best” schools?

This depends on your priorities. Dual language might be most important to you, or maybe you love a particular charter. Perhaps you really, really want your IB school. This will be different for everyone.

How do I learn more about the schools?

Schools are holding open houses during the lottery period. Go to a school’s website to find dates. Talk to your friends and neighbors about the schools their children are attending. Consider attending a PK lottery educational event. Consider hiring a consultant to help you create your list. (See the end of this post for more info on those last two.)

What’s new or different this year?

A couple things of note:

  • School Within a School (SWS), a beloved and much-desired citywide DCPS school at 9th and F NE, will be undergoing renovation and relocated to a swing space that has not yet been announced.
  • Appletree SW, a PK-only public charter, is in a new location at 475 School St SW and has a combined 132 seats for PK3 and PK4.

Am I guaranteed a PK spot at my IB school?

No–unless you live IB for an Early Action PK school, you are not guaranteed an IB spot until kindergarten. Go here to learn more about early action and see a list of the schools. Miner Elementary, north of Lincoln Park, is an early action school, so if you live IB for Miner, you are in for PK.

What are my chances of getting into my (non-Early Action) IB school for PK3?

You can look at last year’s initial lottery results combined with wait-list offer data to make an educated guess. Here are two tools:

  • DCPS Lottery Results: This shows the initial results from last year’s and previous year’s lotteries (and unfortunately, does not include data for charters).

For some very popular Hill schools, the data show that not all IB children were matched. Examples are: Brent, Maury and Peabody, where many IB children were wait-listed and very few wait-list offers were made.

What schools can I get into out of bounds (OOB)?

Charters and DCPS citywide schools have no boundary preferences (but most admit siblings first). For DCPS boundary schools, you can use the tools above to see how many children were matched with “no preference,” meaning they were OOB and without any other preference.

Is it possible to play the lottery and not get a spot anywhere? What then?

Yes, this happened to my friend last year. She didn’t get a spot at her IB school and had high wait-list numbers for all of her choices. She ended up doing a post-lottery application to a PK that didn’t have a wait-list and was matched there.

I’m worried about not getting matched. What should I include on my list?

My opinion: There are three Appletree PK charters around the Hill: Lincoln Park, Oklahoma Ave and SW. Oklahoma Ave and SW have lots of seats, so you have a good chance of getting into these. Lincoln Park has fewer seats (36 PK3 spots last year) but is worth a shot.

How stressed should I be?

Don’t stress! One thing to keep in mind is that early education at Hill schools is pretty great (even at schools that have lower star ratings). All the PK programs will be safe, supportive, fun, and conforming to similar standards. If you don’t match at a program that is acceptable to you, you can continue with nanny/day care/play group or go private.

How can I get more help?

You might need more help because your child has special needs, your situation is complicated, or you just don’t have time to figure all of this out yourself. Time to bring in the experts.

EV Downey, Downey School Consulting

EV Downey

E.V. Downey has been teaching and working with children for over 20 years. She has been consulting on DCPS/DCPCS schools and the lottery for more than eight years.

Downey School Consulting also provides consulting on special needs, private schools and school problems at any grade level. As a Registered Behavior Therapist, E.V. works with kids with autism and as a tutor for students with ADHD.

E.V. is a graduate of DCPS (Duke Ellington) and has raised two kids here on Capitol Hill. Contact her at

Lindsay Ferrer, LEAD Consulting

Lindsay Ferrer

Lindsay Ferrer is an experienced early education practitioner. With degrees in developmental psychology and education policy, Lindsay is versed in developmentally appropriate pre-K practices. She also holds a certificate in early intervention, providing expertise in special needs services. Learn more about Lindsay here:

LEAD Consulting uses a wide variety of school data to drive recommendations and help families find the best school fit.

Lindsay is offering several PK3 educational sessions:

  • Jan. 22 and Feb. 10 at Elemeno here on the Hill. Sign up here.
  • Jan. 26 and Feb. 12 at the Colony Club in NW. Sign up here.

I attended a session with Lindsay last year and found it very helpful. I also went back to Lindsay later for a mini-consultation to help finalize my list.

March 2 is the PK lottery application deadline, so you’ve all got plenty of time. Good luck, neighbors!

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