Third Friday Counts

The official Download fileThird Friday Counts were distributed to the Board of Education last night (and shared with the Advocates for Madison Public School list serve this morning). Contrary to dire predictions and assessments (see here: and here), the district is growing. This will mean some increased funding under the current formula and that is good news.
However, the reassignments of the first weeks reveal how the continued tight budget situation limits flexibility in ways that disrupt schools, teachers, families and children.
I believe that this growth is further evidence that passage of the referendum is necessary; that the time to act is now at the beginning of the projected upswing in enrollments.

20 thoughts on “Third Friday Counts”

  1. As I repeatedly say, never take anything from the MMSD at face value.
    When comparing actual enrollment a year ago to the offical count this year, the figures show the following changes in enrollment, according to the link provided by TJM above:
    Pre-K: -34
    Elementary: +304
    Middle: -6
    HS: -220
    The net change comes to 44 for total PK-12, if I did my math correctly, but the superintendent’s memo said the net gain was 40.
    And then he chose the better of the two enrollment measures (K-12, not PreK-12) to brag about an enrollment increase of 229.
    I never took Connected Math, but maybe this demonstrates what supporters mean when they say Connected Math is so good because there are no correct answers.
    Makes me also wonder about bright flight from MMSD high schools and the need to build another one.
    Does anyone have the enrollment changes by school?

  2. And don’t forget about bright flight OUT of private schools and into the MMSD. My kids were thrilled to find some classmates who had left the MMSD a few years ago coming back this year. All of them returned from local private schools, both parochial and non-parochial.

  3. One thing to keep in mind, however.
    Regardless of what school institution is involved, public, private, religious, commericial, homeschool, or distance learning, the fact remains that to the extent that the U.S. educational philosophies are incorrect, and unsubstantiated by anything close to real science, all such institutions will cause our children to suffer equally.
    It’s the Hawthorne Effect. Any change will cause both children and parents to think, initially, because the psychology of hope is present, that progress is being made, and that might be true in some cases, but ultimately, the Effect wears off, and they are left with disillusionment.
    That is the problem with vouchers, school choice, public vs. private — it doesn’ matter. Absolutely no one is addressing the real issues, and how to solve them. It’s all a matter whose got the money and power.
    That is, a parent’s decision to take a kids out of MMSD or any school, and place them elsewhere is simply a desperate attempt by parents to find some educational institution that will serve them.
    Is it “Coco Puffs” or “Frosted Flakes”? Both will rot your teeth.

  4. Thanks for posting the information. For state revenue calculation, a three year rolling average of enrollment is used. It’s good to see a positive sign, however small (40-78 increase); because state revenue is indeed tied to total enrollment.
    The difference between the actual 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 was a decline of 442 students. For the same time period, 7 school districts surrounding MMSD saw an increase of 1,999 students.
    Since 1997, with the exception of two years, MMSD student population has declined. In 1997-1998, student population was 25,327.
    My original post on this information last fall was not intended to sound an alarm. Rather, the intention was to raise the question – what are the implications for the future of Madison’s schools, if any, of these changing patterns?
    Others who read my post talked about rolling averages – I hope there are those who will do that analysis. At $9-10,000 per student, 1,999 students have a revenue value of approximately $18-20 million.

  5. Does it strike anyone as unusual that the district administrators can’t add and subtract accurately?
    Does it bother anyone that this sentence doesn’t use apastrophes: This years enrollment is also up as compared to last years actual third Friday enrollment.

  6. First, the counts were done on Friday compiled and distributed to the Board on Monday. This wasn’t a press release and obviously wasn’t proofed as well as it should have been.
    We all call for open governance so when a board member hears these calls and shares a semi-internal document, I don’t think we should nitpick too much. The final and official counts will be officially released soon, I’m glad we had a preview.
    On the trend and the counts and the county numbers, I appreciate Barb’s reminder about the rolling numbers but worry that the growth comparison with suburban districts is based on or can invite misapprehensions. Both Madison and the Madison Metropolitan Area are growing. As the presentation at Monday’s Long Range Planning meeting demonstrated, the available land for growth is much greater outside the MMSD boundaries and therefore more growth has occurred and will occur there. It is also worth noting that much of the growth is from people who have a suburban orientation. We all know that parts of Madison (proper) are urban and parts are suburban, but all of the surrounding districts are suburban/rural. With some migrants or buyers there is a competition, with some there isn’t — they know that they don’t want to live in a city, even one as fine as Madison. I guess all this is a way of saying that I can’t think of a scenario where more than a small portion of the families of those 1,999 students could find housing that met their needs within the district. I recognize that there is some competition for families and students but believe that the 1,999 greatly exaggerates it.
    It is important that both the city and the metro area continue to prosper and I believe that this has been and will be the case here. And I don’t think it is off topic to say that passing this referendum will send the right message to those who are torn between the city and the suburbs. Failing to pass it will send the wrong message to everyone (except those who enjoy seeing the schools and the children they serve struggle).

  7. Thanks for posting the counts TJ. As a member of the East Attendance Area task force last year, I’m glad to see that 65 of the 83 elementary kids above projections are in the East area. Those of us on the task force came to the conclusion that closing a school wouldn’t be a prudent thing to do at this point in time primarily because the projections seemed to be somewhat unreliable and there was some anecdotal evidence that enrollment might be increasing, due to the turnover of older neighborhoods to younger families.

  8. I’m not sure what 400 fewer students and 1900 more students means either, but the revenue implications of both numbers are large – $3.6 to $4 million for 400 students and nearly $20 million for 1999 students. I don’t think it is simply a suburban/urban mind set difference. I live on the near west side and feel I live in a suburban environment compared to my home in NYC. One of the main reasons we bought our home 20 years ago in this neighborhood was the quality of the schools – Randall, Franklin, Hamilton, West. We did not have any children at the time. There were other factors – closer to downtown, parks, lake, etc.
    I simply think there are important strategic issues that need to be discussed. For example, if you know you could be losing students and the school funding formula works against declining enrollment (and gives little recognition to low income/minority enrollment), what would need to be done to keep numbers at current levels and/or to grow the numbers?
    I’ve lived in Madison for nearly 30 years, moving here from the East coast. There was plenty of room to grow outside NYC and that’s what happened. I grew up when White Plains, NY, first began attracting major corporations and residential/commercial growth grew in this area. I expect we’ll see the same thing with EPIC in Verona – major growth around this large business as well as other business areas outside Madison.
    I think of Rufus King High School in Milwaukee. Isn’t that high school in a poor part of the city. Doesn’t that high school rank high academically, attract more applicants than the school has room for? Why is this? Do any of these applicants come from outside the City?

  9. Ed: Seriously, I wouldn’t castigate someone’s failure to use an APOSTROPHE when you can’t even spell the word correctly yourself. In fact, I really don’t think the grammar police are all that relevant to any online discussions, they’re just red herrings! MMMMM, herrings, now I’m hungry!

  10. David,
    A typo. Sorry.
    My point is two fold. Can we trust MMSD numbers? Can we expect accuracy in MMSD writing? Or, have we all fallen to the level of Connected Math (any answer is correct) and balanced literature (if you know what it means, it’s written well enough)?
    We’re certainly headed in those directions, in my opinion.

  11. One observation, unrelated to spelling, grammar, or adddition, is that the 3rd Friday count is conducted for calculating membership. In the process, you also should get an accurate enrollment number. However, membership for cap and aid purposes is not quite the same thing as enrollment.

  12. The 3rd Friday enrollment results distributed earlier this week seem quite promising for the district, though we should wait till the final official numbers are published to be conclusive. It is heartening to see the total count up. It is especially encouraging to see elementary school enrollment up so strongly, and the more that increase is weighted toward kindergarten, (as well as 1st and 2nd grade,) the more encouraging still – that’s the base where the huge bulk of future students come from.
    I’m going to refrain from producing charts and try to describe what I think is going on here. When you look at the US 6-11 age cohort (K-5 age group), you will observe a distinct pattern. It goes up from 1945-68 (the baby boom), drops from 1968-82, goes back up again 1982-2000 (baby boomlet), drops back down 2000-06, then goes back up again from 2006 on, as forecast by the US Census Bureau. Comparing Madison’s K-5 enrollment with the US age group equivalent, it appears Madison runs about 5 years ahead of the nation; (it used to be 2-3 years during the 1960’s to 80’s, now its up to a five year lead). Not sure why we lead the country that much, but presumably it may have something to do with being a college town.
    I believe the increases we are now experiencing in elementary enrollment has everything to do with the underlying demographic pattern of that age group. Our elementary numbers are going up because kids that age are increasing in number. And given that Madison births have been going up the last several years, we should anticipate MMSD elementary enrollment to continue to be on the rise, as reflected in the district’s 5-year enrollment forecast. (Which, by the way, is the number one reason to support the referendum – our elementary school enrollment is going to go up, not just because of growing developments in the area, but because that age group is expected to continue to increase in number nationwide for years to come.)
    When you look at the US 15-18 age group pattern, again pulled back by five years, you see that age group ebbing in 1986, rising through 2003, then falling through 2010, then rising back up again thereafter. (Projecting that age group is much easier today as it is entirely driven by the ages before it – it’s the all-important birth rate that’s the tricky part). MMSD’s high school enrollment pattern mirrors the nation’s 15-18 group remarkably well from 1987-2011 (the years for which I have annual data and projections). That our high school enrollment is declining is probably (underline probably) almost entirely due to the underlying demographics and very little to do with school quality issues. School quality issues may be holding back enrollment a bit at the high school level, to be sure, but unquestionably the number one reason our high school enrollment is declining, and will continue to decline for about another five years or so, is the demographic pattern of the 15-18 age group (i.e. the high school numbers are driven mainly by middle school and elementary school numbers).
    That pre-K enrollment is down, does not alarm me. The number dropped from 272 to 238 (preliminary). Kindergarten enrollment will be around 2,000. Clearly, our pre-K program draws from a very small proportion of the total subject population. That it falls (or rises) presumably has mostly to do with the specifics of that particular program. I think it quite appropriate that the superintendent not include the pre-K numbers in his district enrollment assessment – provided he stays consistent and does not mention it when the figure goes up.
    I am also not alarmed that area communities have seen their enrollment rise by 2,000 while ours declined 500 during the 1997-2005 time frame. I think TJ addressed that point very well. I would only add that these outer areas, of course, generally offer cheaper housing, which attracts the all-important younger family with young kids and young kids-to-be. Consequently, 100 homes built out there will attract more school age kids than the equivalent inside Madison. Again, harking back to the referendum, a central point behind building schools beyond the beltline is to attract those younger families into areas that are within our district borders, whether or not they are within city limits.

  13. Thanks for the information, Peter. I would only add that the decline of 400+ and the increase of nearly 2,000 was only for one year to the next – the school year 2004-2005 to 2005-2006.
    Darn, would have loved to see the graphs:)

  14. Ed: Maybe we need to agree on what is an acceptable error rate when dealing with MMSD numbers. I NEVER expect them to be spot on, but I do expect them to be within 2-3% of projection. Sometimes they are very close, and sometimes they forecast quite inaccurately. I’m not a numbers geek, so I have no idea what is acceptable error and what is not, when it comes to demographics. I have heard Kurt Kiefer admit making errors before, and I assume that’s just part of his job. Either way, I NEVER RELY on their prjoections, I only take them into account when looking at the larger picture.

  15. David,
    The math problem is not in the projections. The numbers in the chart in the superintendent’s memo don’t add up. They are not internally consistent. The sum of the following numbers is 44, not 40 as shown in the memo: -34, 304, -6, and -220. I expect the superintendent and his staff to present accurate numbers in these types of simple calculations. There is no acceptable margin of error.
    Check how you spelled “prjoections.” Typos are excusable, not simple math errors in important documents presented to the board and public.

  16. Oooops! A typo! Musta been that red ale I had with the red herring! Seriously, do you want to nitpick the MMSD on every little thing? (Please, DON’T answer that one, it’s purely rhetorical). They have, can and will screw things up…that’s the nature of large beaurocracies. But it’s also the nature of you, and me, and every person who posts here, so I don’t plan to lose any sleep over minor numbers faux pas. Now, if ya’ll don’t mind, back to the ale n’ herring;)

  17. David, you have a short memory. Maybe it’s the ale. Time and again, I’ve found and reported on numerical errors and inconsistencies in administration reports and statements. Some are less significant than others, I’ll admit, but they’re all indicative of sloppy work. Madison deserves better.

  18. In 2005-2006, the student enrollment in public schools in MMSD and 7 “larger” surrounding school districts was about 3,543 students more than during the 1996-1997 school year. While there were enrollment variations from year to year, the total enrollment for the area grew over that time period.
    For MMSD, student enrollment was 706 fewer students; for the surrounding areas, the increase was 4,249 students. (This is not a rolling average comparison – just the difference between 96/97 and 05/06. Also, as we know, not only are there fewer students in Madison now, the student population mix changed dramatically over the same time period – increasing low income and minority students in Madison’s student population mix).
    The forecast is for growing elementary enrollment, which was seen this year. I wonder if the growth in student enrollment in the surrounding areas is due to families moving to Madison or births in the area – probably combination of both. Birth rate predicts K enrollment. I also wonder if the rate of births to K in Madison has changed over time between Madison and the surrounding areas? For example, if 90% of births went to Madison schools and 10% to the surrounding areas. Is that ratio the same? What, if any changes, are we seeing?

  19. Barb S. wrote:
    “I wonder if the growth in student enrollment in the surrounding areas is due to families moving to Madison or births in the area – probably combination of both.”
    An important third factor is people moving into the area, be it the district or surrounding districts. Most people who live in the surrounding districts did not move out of Madison, they never lived here.

  20. Thanks for the observation and clarification – I meant to write moving into the Madison area. I have no information about moving into or out of the City of Madision specifically due to schools or for any other reason.

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