The DC Public Charter School Board has released a report titled “Choosing Quality” that offers readers a series of maps of where DC students live and go to school in the 2015-2016 academic school year. The report provides context for these maps by examine the patterns in distance traveled to school by demographics, risk factors, grade, student ward, school ward, school, and commutes by ward.
DC Public School Board calculated students’ distance to school as the shortest distance between a student’s home and school. Thus, the calculations do not account for actual walking or transportation distance. Several public charter schools report enrollment for only one campus, but have more than one location. For institutions like these, the report calculated distance as the distance between a student’s home and the midpoint of the campuses’ locations.
On average, the report finds that public charter school students commuted 2.1 miles to school in the 2015-2016 academic year, which is the same average distanced traveled to school in the 2014-2015 academic year after using the same methodology. A distance of 2.1 miles represents a 42-minute walk, an 8-minute ride on the Metrorail, or a 10-minute drive with no traffic.
The average distance to school increases in upper grades, from a low of 2.0 miles traveled for pre-kindergarten students to a high of 2.4 miles for high school students. On average, adults and alternative students travel 2.1 miles to school, the same average for private charter school students. Students who attended St. Coletta Special Education Public Charter School had to travel the farthest to school at an average of 3.1 miles.
The results also were broken down by race. African-American students travel an average of 2.2 miles to school, similar to the average of all public charter school students. White public charter school distance also face a 2.2 mile commute. Hispanic/Latino students, who account for 15% of the student population, travel a slightly shorter distance to school at an average of 1.7 miles.
Students who are not at-risk students travel 0.2 miles farther to school than students who are at-risk. Students are identified as at-risk if they are homeless, in the foster care system, qualify for welfare or food stamps, or are a year behind their peers in high school. The difference in these student commutes are small, but it could indicate differences in access to transportation for at-risk students.
DC Public Charter School students who live in Ward 1 have the shortest commute to school at 1.4 miles, whereas students who live in Wards 3, 7, and 8 have the farthest commute, at 3.8, 2.5, and 2.4 miles, respectively. There are no public charter schools in Ward 3, which explains the longer distances traveled by those students. By contrast, students attending schools in Wards 2, 4, 5, and 6 travel farthest to school, and students attending school in Wards 7 and 8 have the shortest distance to travel.
For interested readers, the full report is available online.