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Changes to the Immersion Program Lottery Frequently Asked Questions

March 19, 2017

See comments from Board of Education member Patricia O’Neill concerning policy JEE

What is Policy JEE, Student Transfer?

Policy JEE governs the process for how students move throughout the county via change of school assignments or transfers. That includes the language immersion lottery process. Read the full revised policy here.

 Why did you decide to make changes to the immersion lottery?

A systemwide study of Choice and other special academic programs found the demographic profile of the language immersion program does not reflect the diversity of MCPS. The study also found some aspects of the enrollment process reduce the number of available seats, which could hinder equitable access to the program for historically underrepresented communities. We have a longstanding commitment to equity and excellence in education and we need to ensure these principles are met in the language immersion program.

What changes are you making to the lottery process?

The change to policy JEE establishes a weighted lottery for immersion programs that now include factors such as:

  • Socio-economic status and poverty;
  • Students who have an older sibling currently enrolled in a language immersion program and will continue to be enrolled in the year the younger sibling seeks to enroll; and
  • Other factors as identified by the superintendent of schools

We believe this change helps promote greater equity while acknowledging the value of a sibling preference and respecting families currently enrolled who have relied on this preference.

When do these changes take effect??

The revised lottery would apply to students seeking to enroll in these programs for the 2018-2019 school year. This change would not impact families with students enrolled in the immersion program during the 2017-2018 school year.

We’ve made a decision about where to send our children to school based on one sibling’s current enrollment in the language immersion program. Will students with siblings in the program get any preference at all?

The younger sibling will be grandfathered into the program. Out of respect for those who relied on the sibling preference when making a decision regarding enrollment, we added a grandfathering provision that indicates that if a family has a child enrolled in a language immersion program in the 2017-2018 school year, that child’s younger siblings will be able to directly enroll in the same immersion program as long as there is at least one older sibling enrolled the same year as the younger sibling.

Are you taking any other steps to increase equity in language immersion programs?

Yes. We’ve engaged in a robust outreach campaign that includes a special emphasis on communities that have been historically underrepresented in the immersion program application process. Additionally, next fall, MCPS will launch two new dual-language immersion programs (Spanish/English) at Brown Station and Washington Grove elementary schools and will seek to add programs to additional schools each year.

We are confident that the enhanced outreach, paired with this change in policy, will help us strengthen our language immersion programs and fulfill our commitment to excellence and equity in our schools.

How does this impact the new dual-language immersion programs?

Dual-language immersion programs are home school-based, therefore there is no lottery application process.

 How did you make the decision to revise Policy JEE?

We did not arrive at this decision lightly. The Board of Education commissioned the Choice Study in January 2015 and received the finding and recommendations in March 2016. Over the last year, MCPS held three district-wide community dialogues; met with interested community groups; heard from constituents at meetings; gathered public comments online and discussed and debated vigorously around the Board table before making changes. We want our immersion programs to build on the strength of our community and the inherent gifts of a diverse, multilingual and multicultural population.