Washington, D.C., is one of few locales requiring students to attend school for 13 years, ages 5-18. Most states require between 10 and 11 years of compulsory education.

History

The District of Columbia, in the southern United States and the seat of our nation’s capital, legalized homeschooling in 2008. It was one of the last areas to formally legalize homeschooling.

Regulation

The District of Columbia requires parents who elect to homeschool their children, ages 5 to 18, to notify the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) at least 15 days prior to the first day of home instruction. They must complete the Notification of Homeschool Continuation by August 15th annually. Also, parents who remove a child from a public school must notify the school of their intention to homeschool. Parents must keep accurate daily records of attendance, and instruction in the core subjects is required. There is also a portfolio requirement, and the portfolio must be available for review upon request. After a review, the OSSE can recommend a “corrective action” plan.

Parents who direct their children’s education at home must have at least a high school diploma or GED, or they may petition the OSSE for a waiver. Homeschooled students may participate in statewide assessments free of charge, and results are provided to families for information on student progress.

Homeschooled students may ask for permission to participate in sporting activities. However, no other official policies outline access for nonpublic students to public school offerings like courses and extracurriculars. According to the District of Columbia policy, homeschooled students are not eligible for special education services since they are no longer enrolled in public schools.

State Data

The District of Columbia requires all parents to file annual information on their homeschool participation, and they report that data upon request. For example, around 400 students reported homeschooling in 2015 which increased to almost 1,100 at the height of the pandemic.

A bar chart showing homeschool rates in The District of Columbia from 2012 to 2022, with rates steadily increasing from 2012 to 2018, dropping slightly in 2019, and then increasing drastically from 2020 to 2022.

Similarly, U.S. Census estimates indicate that around 7% of D.C. families homeschooled in the spring of 2020 and increased to 10.3% by the fall of 2020. Note that these percentages reflect family participation. Student participation would be higher, given that many families have more than one child. For the 2022 and 2023 school years, U.S. Census estimates found an average of 4.3% of all K-12 students in D.C. were homeschooled.

Download Homeschool Hub State Data

Cross-Sector Comparison

During the 2019-20 academic year, fewer than 1% of D.C.’s K-12 students were homeschooled. The percentage of homeschooled students was much lower than the 14% of students attending private schools. An even larger portion (37%) of D.C. students attended a charter school. In 2021-22, 1% of D.C.’s K-12 students were homeschooled. The percentage of homeschooled students was much lower than the 17.5% of students attending private schools. An even larger portion (36%) of D.C. students attended a charter school.

A pie chart showing home, charter, private, and traditional public school percentages in D.C. in 2021-22

School Choice Context

In addition to homeschooling, parents in D.C. have various educational choices available. These options include enrollment in traditional public schools with limited inter- and intra-district choice, a few magnet schools, and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program voucher for private schools. Nearly half of D.C.’s students attend a charter school.

Commentary

D.C. could increase access to all nonpublic students for offerings at public schools, including extracurriculars and courses. They could also report more data that they collect, such as student age, grade, and locale. These efforts would remove barriers and improve transparency.

Last updated December 2023.