Students with Disabilities and the Public School Lottery


The My School DC lottery process is available to all DC residents. Students with disabilities can apply to any DC Public School (DCPS) or DC public charter school, are treated the same as all other students who enter the lottery, and use the same application process. All families of students with disabilities are invited to learn about their public school options and participate in the common lottery; no student shall be denied admission into a DC public school because of disabilities or suspected disabilities.


My School DC school profiles have contact information for a staff member that the school has identified specifically to speak about special education services. Each school’s profile also links out to their School Report Card, which contains data on how students with disabilities are performing on all metrics in the School Transparency and Reporting (STAR) framework.  My School DC has a Parent Advisory Council that has created a set of questions by parents for parents. There is a section written by parents of students with disabilities.  


The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) also has a new Special Education Resource Hub with information and helpful resources that provide answers to common questions such as, what are the rights of you and your child, who to reach out to for support, and what to do if you think your child’s needs have changed.  


For families with students transitioning  to high school and beyond, use your student’s secondary transition plan as a way to start your search, think of what you will need in a school, and then use My School DC profiles and contact schools to find programming that fits your student’s goals.


The Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program serves as the single point of entry for infants and toddlers in Washington, DC whose families have concerns about their development. Specifically, Strong Start provides early intervention, therapeutic and other services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays and their families. Learn more here.




Learn what you need to apply and apply by the deadlines.


There is a lottery preference for an applicant that has been identified as having a high level of need in their Individual Education Plan (IEP) as measured on March 1, 2020. Identification for this preference means OSSE has a record that the applicant has an eligible IEP for the high level special education classrooms where the preference is offered. Currently, this preference is offered at one public charter school, Bridges PCS.




If a student receives a lottery match or waitlist offer, the next step is to enroll in that public school. The Local Education Agency (LEA) must enroll that student regardless of the student’s special education status. However, the LEA may serve the student at a different campus within their LEA than where the student was matched in order to appropriately serve the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). DCPS is the largest LEA in DC. Learn more about their special education policies here. The next largest LEAs are charter management organizations within DC that have multiple campuses, e.g., KIPP DC PCS, Friendship PCS, Center City PCS, and others. If you have a student with disabilities, we encourage you to reach out to individual LEAs to learn more about their individual special education policies.


There are two enrollment processes outside of the common lottery for students with disabilities:

  1. DCPS Early Stages
    Early Stages is a DC Public Schools assessment center for children between the ages of 2 years 8 months and 5 years 10 months. Any District resident can seek their free services to identify any disability their child may have and arrange services to address them. Learn more here. Note: Siblings of students accepting placement through the DCPS Early Stages program are eligible for a sibling preference. 
  1. Non-Public Placement
    Once a student with disabilities is enrolled in a public school in DC, the student’s IEP team may decide to place the student at a nonpublic special education school or program. A non-public special education school is a privately owned or operated school that maintains or conducts classes for the purposes of offering instruction to students with disabilities. The child must still be enrolled in a public LEA every school year during the nonpublic school placement. Learn more here.


To see a list of terms and definitions that may be helpful as you learn more to support your child, visit this resource from DC’s Office of the Student Advocate.


My School DC is a part of the Office of State Superintendent for Education (OSSE). Learn more about OSSE's Roadmap for Accelerating Academic Outcomes for Students with Disabilities. Click here for helpful links to community resources, transportation information for students with disabilities, family rights/procedural safeguards, and early childhood transition guidelines.


Questions? Call 202-888-6336 for assistance in your language or send an e-mail to