In Issue in Seattle School Board Elections: School Closings and Enrollment Projections moi said:
The difficult economy has been a curse for the population at large and Seattle Schools in particular. Yet, there may be a silver lining. More families are coming to Seattle Public Schools because the private option is financially no longer an option. This is even more reason to get Seattle Public Schools in shape. Keep in mind, the current incumbents went along with the plan to close schools.
Enrollment on the rise
Enrollment at Seattle Public Schools fell throughout the 1990s, and the district already was closing schools to save money when a low point came several years ago. Now that enrollment is rising again, the district is reopening schools. About 800 more students are projected this year.
Source: Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Here is what Seattle School Board members Mary Bass, Sherry Carr, Cheryl Chow, Michael DeBell, Peter Maier, Harium Martin-Morris and Steve Sundquist said in the November 3, 2008 Seattle Times opinion piece, Closing Seattle Schools Brings Excellence to All
In June, our decision to do what is right for our students came in the form of a unanimous vote for Seattle Public Schools’ strategic plan, “Excellence for All” This plan establishes the framework for moving toward our vision of a district where all students achieve at high levels and graduate ready for college, career and life. We believe strongly that this plan set the right priorities to strengthen our district and pointed out correctly that in order to do so, shortfalls in our systems and infrastructure must be addressed.
Today, the board is united again.
Last week, we voted unanimously to take immediate steps to create a stable, long-term financial position that ensures available resources are concentrated to deliver academic excellence. Facing a funding gap of $24 million for next year’s budget and acknowledging the national economic downturn, we directed Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson to accelerate work to address the long-standing space imbalances across the district. We can no longer bear the expense of operating more facilities than needed. We know that to fully implement our strategic plan, we must protect the Seattle school district’s financial health.
Outside audits stretching back to 1990 underscored the need for the district to bring the number of facilities in line with enrollment in order to more effectively use resources. Managing our space capacity and creating a new student-assignment plan are top priorities of the strategic plan.
We recognize that closing buildings is one of the greatest challenges a district can face, but we must move forward to support our students. Budget dollars are spread thin by maintaining more buildings than necessary. Our students receive fewer resources when they attend schools that are not fully enrolled. Ensuring equal access to a quality education means we must redirect these resources to the classrooms where they will directly benefit our students.
Balancing capacity in our schools is critical and we fully understand that we can only be successful if we involve the community throughout the process. We will work with the superintendent and her staff to develop a fair and transparent process as well as criteria for closing buildings.
We need the public to be engaged in this conversation and we understand that many of these discussions will focus on the fate of individual schools. As members of the School Board, we pledge to continue to act in the best interest of the entire district, and make our decisions based on what will be most effective in serving students across the city.
We hope Seattle students and families join us in a dialogue to bring “Excellence for All” to life. We believe our success as a community and the success of our children hinges upon our coming together. We must do whatever it takes to make our students successful.
Two Seattle Schools will be re-opening.
Emily Hefter is reporting in the Seattle Times article, Growing Enrollments Bring Rebirth for 2 Seattle Schools
Brian M. Rosenthal, Seattle Times education reporter is reporting in the article, Surging Enrollment Blindsides Seattle Schools
Normally, growth in enrollment would be good news. But officials didn’t see it coming and didn’t prepare for it — resulting in serious overcrowding at several schools.
The district’s 2011 head count, released Friday, shows this year’s enrollment is about 1,500 students higher than last — a 3 percent increase. Overall, enrollment has risen 7 percent in the past three years, and it’s expected to climb another 10 percent over the next three years.
In West and Northeast Seattle, where the growth is largest, class sizes are up and some teachers are leading classes in cafeterias and auditoriums.
“We are bursting at the seams,” Thornton Creek Elementary parent Cristina McGlynn said. “If you walk through the hallways now, it’s impossible to get from one side to another.”
The district is now reopening some of the same schools it had closed in 2006 and 2009 amid fierce opposition from parents and community activists.
By next year, about half of the 12 shuttered schools will be back in operation — after millions of dollars were spent in closing and reopening costs. But the reopened school can’t accommodate all the extra students, and a tight budget prevents any new building construction until at least 2016.
So the district is scrambling to form a short-term strategy. The plan, which the Seattle School Board will vote on next month, is expected to include using 35 more portable classrooms over the next four years….
But a comparison shows Seattle Public Schools uses fewer data sources in its projections than many districts. Most notably, information about housing starts and development projects plays a much bigger role in other districts locally and around the country….
Asked why officials didn’t predict the enrollment increase, School Board member Peter Maier’s answer is simple: “Conditions changed.”
He pointed to the new assignment plan and the recession. But several parents dismissed those factors, complaining district officials ignored warnings about the possibility of rising enrollment.
The assignment plan, adopted in 2009, guarantees students a seat in the school closest to their home. That’s important because under the old choice system, some parents — especially those arriving in the middle of the school year — decided to avoid the risk of having their children assigned to a faraway or low-performing school by not enrolling them in the public system. Those families are now coming back, officials said.
At the same time, the recession has rendered some families unable to afford private school, officials said.
“No demographer can predict what the economy’s going to do,” said Holly Ferguson, head of communication strategies. “The economists can’t even predict what the economy’s going to do.”
That may be only part of the story, though. Admissions officers at several Seattle private schools said their enrollments have suffered only slightly since the recession.
When Seattle started closing schools in 2006, demographers predicted enrollment would continue its long decline. They made similar predictions into 2009, even after the recession had started and the assignment plan was put in place.
Kellie LaRue was one of several people who tried to convince the district otherwise. LaRue, a parent and systems engineer, believes district leaders were so used to declining enrollment and so focused on overall enrollment that they dismissed data showing the beginnings of a baby boom in the city….
Projecting enrollment is a difficult combination of science and art, said Tracy Libros, Seattle’s longtime manager of planning and enrollment.
In Seattle, demographers first analyze trends of the percentage of students who move from one grade to the next, Libros explained. They then apply that percentage to the number of current students at each grade to predict how many students will be in each grade the following year.
For kindergarten, demographers look at county birthrates and something called the “birth-to-K” ratio — the historical percent of newborns who show up at kindergarten five years later.
“It’s a very standard methodology,” Libros said.
While demographers at school districts across the country use the same method, many also consult other data.
In Boston Public Schools, demographer Jerry Burrell said he relies heavily on housing patterns and immigration trends.
The basic methodology is “just a tool,” said Burrell, noting it often is late in picking up on major trends. “You have to look at all these other pieces.”
San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., officials agreed. Even in smaller Puget Sound districts, nondemographic factors are an important consideration, officials said.
Lake Washington tracks housing developments, said Deputy Superintendent Janene Fogard, adding the district correctly predicted an enrollment spike similar to Seattle’s in 2009.
Those types of factors are not an important consideration in Seattle’s current method, officials acknowledge.
Les Kendrick, an enrollment-projection expert, told Seattle officials in June that their projection methods didn’t consider enough data sources. He recommended considering housing trends and state growth reports, among other sources.
The district is now working with Kendrick to identify additional sources to incorporate in its model, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Pegi McEvoy said. It’s also stepping up its cooperation with city of Seattle demographers, she said. [Emphasis Added]
Seattle Public Schools officials have proposed the following actions to address overcrowding in Seattle schools over the next four years:
Reopen Boren, Columbia and old Van Asselt elementary schools. Consider reopening Hughes.
Install 35 portables at schools across the city.
Make minor school-boundary adjustments to the neighborhood assignment plan.
Source: Seattle Public Schools intermediate-term capacity-management plan
Really big oops!
July, 2011: Dr Wilda says this about that ©
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