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Madison Student Enrollment Projections and where have all the students gone?

Madison School District PDF:

Executive Summary:

As part of its long-range facility planning efforts, MMSD requires a refined approach for predicting enrollment arising from new development and changes in enrollment within existing developed areas. As urban development approaches the outer edges of the District’s boundary, and as redevelopment becomes an increasingly important source of new housing, these issues are critical.

Study Approach

The study period examined MMSD enrollment through the 2036-2037 school year in five-year segments. The projection model applied current MMSD student enrollment rates to 26 specific residential building forms, ranging from single-family homes to downtown redevelopment mixed-use buildings. Using these “residential typologies”, future development was mapped on more than 300 redevelopment locations and more than 2,000 greenfield locations on the periphery of the District.

Development locations, typologies, and timing were confirmed by planning department staff in Madison and Fitchburg. The model also factored in the continued decline in students per household at a rate of about 1% for every five-year period, consistent with official projections. Three Scenarios were examined, varying by the pace of development. Scenario 3, based on an extrapolation of population growth in MMSD, between 2010 and 2015, was identified as most likely.

Key Findings
1. District Territory is Approaching Build-Out by 2040
Under the selected scenario, by the year 2040, all the developable lands in MMSD’s territory (including the transferring areas from the Middleton-Cross Plains and Verona Area School Districts) are likely to be fully developed. After that point in time, all future changes in land use will occur solely through redevelopment. The economics of redevelopment require greater densities, resulting in a larger proportion of apartments – which have lower student generation rates. As a result, MMSD enrollment is likely to decline after greenfield build-out. If current household size trends hold constant, the resulting rate of enrollment decline will be about 1% for every five years following build-out in about 2040.


MMSD “Leavers” and “Enterers” are a Significant Enrollment Factor.

District leavers include students living in the MMSD territory who choose to attend non-MMSD schools. These include students choosing open enrollment at other public schools, and students attending private and non-MMSD charter schools.

Overall net open enrollment patterns show more students living in the MMSD area choosing open enrollment in other districts, than students living in other districts choosing open enrollment in MMSD. In the fall of 2015, the net loss of 999 students was a result of 316 entering students and 1,315 leaving students. This is about 4% of MMSD’s total enrollment.

Many factors are involved in open enrollment decisions, including the availability of space in other districts. The Monona Grove School District (MGSD) is the most popular destination of students leaving MMSD through open enrollment. Several MGSD schools are at capacity, and MGSD staff has indicated that they maintain full capacity by adjusting the number of open enrollment attendees. Other important considerations, cited by studies and MMSD staff, include the proximity of other schools, the condition and range of school facilities, and resulting travel distances and routes.

This study estimates that about 2,000 resident students are enrolled in private schools in the region – which represents about 9% of MMSD’s total enrollment. This estimate is based on the difference between the 2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates within the MMSD area for the total number of children of K-12 age enrolled in schools of any kind, the estimated number of resident students electing open enrollment outside of MMSD, and actual MMSD enrollment.

7.Key Trends:

MMSD net “Leavers” comprise about 3,000 school age children residing within MMSD territory.

Reduced capacity in many schools in adjacent districts, reflecting strong suburban population growth, is becoming a more frequent limiting factor on MMSD leavers being accepted through open enrollment in other school districts.

Rapidly evolving options, particularly for charter schools and distance learning, make projecting future enrollment changes through net leavers very difficult.

Key Assumption:
1. MMSD net “leavers” will be consistent with their current levels – about 3,000.

Related: Where have all the students gone?

Where Have all the Students Gone? An Update

An update to Barb Schrank’s November, 2005 post:

Comments from a reader:

At $6,000 per child that’s about $16 million per year. At $9,000 per child, that’s about $23 million per year. If we kept 332, that would be $2-3 million more per year.
Also, MMSD not only lost students, which has a negative effect on what the district gets under revenue caps, we’ve increased our low-income population, which means that for every dollar the district gets, more of those dollars need to be spent on non-instructional services.
If the district does not consider the economic development implications of its decisions, we’re likely to

  • see more go to school outside MMSD, or
  • for the non-low income students who go to school here increased family dollars will be spent on private aspects of education- lessons, tutoring, etc.

Madison’s population in 2000 was 208,054 and is estimated to be 223,389, according to the census bureau. Madison’s poverty rate is estimated to be 13%, according to the Small Area Estimates Branch [Website].

District Enrollment
Per Student Spending (06/07 Budget) Administrators Total Staff ACT % Tested (05-06) ACT Comp Score
Madison 25,087 24,755 $12,422 91.5 3544.6 61.1 24.2
Verona 4222 4540 $12,113 22 603.4 69.6 23.6
Middleton-Cross Plains 5125 5640 $12,822 21 756.3 73 24.5
Waunakee 2836 3357 $11,987 14 427.6 70.7 23.3
Sun Priarie 4776 5946 $11,238 20 741.3 62.6 23
McFarland 1951 2017 $11,853 9.5 251.2 64 23.7
Monona Grove 2702 2885 $12,289 13 388 71.4 22.6
Oregon 3430 3588 $11,572 15 465.1 59.2 23.2

Data sources:

Thanks to a number of readers for the updated information.

Where Have All the Students Gone?

Additional Charts: Enrollment Changes, Number of Minority Students | Enrollment Changes, Low Income
MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students – $13.16 Million Per Year*
MMSD reports that student population is declining. From the 2000-2001 school year through the 2003-2004 school year, MMSD lost 174 students. Did this happen in the areas surrounding MMSD? No. From the 2000-2001 through the 2003-2004 school year, the increase in non-MMSD public school student enrollment was 1,462 outside MMSD.
The property tax and state general fund revenue value of 174 students is $1.57 million per year in the 2003-2004 MMSD school year dollars (about $9,000 per student). For 1,462 students, the revenue value is $13.16 million per year. Put another way, the value of losing 174 students equals a loss of 26-30 teachers. A net increase of 1,462 students equals nearly 219 teachers. There are more subtleties to these calculations due to the convoluted nature of the revenue cap calculation, federal and state funds for ELL and special education, but the impact of losing students and not gaining any of the increase of students in the area is enormous.


The Persistent Economic Advantage of America’s Suburbs

Richard Florida:

The rise of the city and the decline of the suburbs has emerged as a common meme in recent years. The young, the educated, and the affluent have come streaming back to the urban core, driving up rents, driving out the poor, and giving rise to patterns of gentrification. The story goes that the suburbs have lost their long-held position as the premier location, being besieged by poverty, economic decline, and other problems once thought to be the province of the inner city.

The trouble is that this picture does not match reality—not by a long shot, according to a detailed new paper published in the journal Urban Studies. Authored by Whitney Airgood-Obrycki of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, it looks at the change in the economic status of urban and suburban neighborhoods from 1970 to 2010, a period that overlaps with notions of the resurgence of America’s urban centers and the decline of its suburbs.

Airgood-Obrycki’s study classifies neighborhoods according to three categories—urban core, inner-ring suburbs, and outer-ring suburbs—based on their proximity to the urban center and their density. It further breaks out the suburbs into three additional categories based on when they were developed: prewar, postwar, and modern. Airgood-Obrycki defines the economic status of neighborhoods according to a series of key economic and demographic indicators, including income, college education, employment in professional occupations, home values, rents, vacancy rates, older households (60 years of age and over), and female-headed households.

Her data come from the U.S. Census Longitudinal Tract Database for the period 1970 to 2010, and cover roughly 40,000 census tracts across America’s 100 most populous metro areas.

Related: Where have all the students gone?

K-12 Tax & Spending Climate: Suburbs vs. Urban Markets

Joel Kotkin:

Some suggest that the trends of the first decade of this century already are passé, and that more Americans are becoming born-again urbanistas. Yet after a brief period of slightly more rapid urban growth immediately following the recession, U.S. suburban growth rates began to again surpass those of urban cores. An analysis by Jed Kolko, chief economist at the real estate website Trulia, reports that between 2011 and 2012 less-dense-than-average Zip codes grew at double the rate of more-dense-than-average Zip codes in the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Americans, he wrote, “still love the suburbs.”

What is also missed by the Obama administration and its allies is the suburbs’ growing diversity. If HUD wants to start attacking these communities, many of their targets will not be whites, but minorities, particularly successful ones, who have been flocking to suburbs for well over a decade.

This undermines absurd claims that the suburbs need to be changed in order to challenge the much detested reign of “white privilege.” In reality, African-Americans have been deserting core cities for years, largely of their own accord and through their own efforts: Today, only 16 percent of the Detroit area’s blacks live within the city limits.

These trends can also be seen in the largely immigrant ethnic groups. Roughly 60 percent of Hispanics and Asians, notes the Brooking Institution, already live in suburbs. Between the years 2000 and 2012, the Asian population in suburban areas of the nation’s 52 biggest metro areas grew by 66 percent, while that in the core cities expanded by 35 percent. Of the top 20 areas with over 50,000 in Asian population, all but two are suburbs.

Related: Where have all the students gone?

Are our suburban heads in the sand?

Erika Sanzi:

Parents prefer relationships to data. Most of us enjoy people more than numbers and like parent teacher conferences better than bar graphs. We take comfort in knowing that our kids are being educated in a safe space and worry very little about the high school profile or SAT participation rate in our town.

It’s human nature to listen to our hearts instead of our heads and it’s normal to be driven by connections we feel to teachers and coaches and school leaders to whom we entrust our children every day.

Hard truths however are better learned early than too late. Parents in my little state of Rhode Island deserve to know how their kids match up educationally against kids from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Maryland. Is the education they’re receiving as good as it feels like it is or are there systemic and measurable deficiencies that parents need to acknowledge?

And will those deficiencies impact the future that they have already envisioned and perhaps even planned for their children?

For example, many parents do not realize that their child’s high school profile has a significant impact on how college admissions officers view their application. And unfortunately for top tier students especially, their applications are looked at less favorably because of what other kids in their class are or are not doing.

Related: where have all the students gone?

March of Milwaukee students to suburban schools hits 8,000

Alan Borsuk:

Every school day, more than 8,000 children who live in the city of Milwaukee head off to school in Milwaukee suburbs.

I think of that as the equivalent of, say, six high schools or 16 elementary schools that are serving Milwaukee kids outside the city lines. That has a lot of impact, even as the complex picture of city-suburban school choice continues to evolve.

This is one form of evolution that Gov. Scott Walker is, presumably, willing to speak his mind on because his proposed state budget calls for ending the voluntary racial integration program known as Chapter 220, which is the oldest of the city-suburban programs.

But the story of city kids going to suburban schools actually has three chapters. In addition to 220, there is extensive use of the state’s open enrollment law and growing use of a provision, now four years old, that allows city kids to attend suburban religious schools.

Here’s a primer on these three often-overlooked but important aspects of educating the children of Milwaukee.

Related: where have all the students gone?

Property Tax Increase Climate: Madison’s Proposed 2015 Spending Referendum

A variety of notes and links on the planned 2015 Madison School District Property Tax Increase referendum:

Madison Schools’ PDF Slides on the proposed projects. Ironically, Madison has long supported a wide variation in low income distribution across its schools. This further expenditure sustains the substantial variation, from Hamilton’s 18% low income population to Black Hawk’s 70%.

A single data point (!) comparison of Dane County School Districts: Ideally, the District would compare per student spending, operating expenditures on facilities, staffing and achievement rather than one data point.

Where have all the students gone? Madison area school district enrollment changes: 1995-2013.

Pat Schneider:

Comments on the school district’s website range from support for the project to concern about the cost and how it was decided which schools would get improvements.

One poster complained about being asked to pay more property taxes when income is not rising. A parent suggested that more space should be added now — rather than later — at west side Hamilton Middle/Van Hise Elementary School, where $2.53 million in improvements would add classrooms and a shared library, allowing current library space to be used for classrooms. Better yet, build a whole new middle school, the parent suggested.

A parent whose children attend Schenk Elementary/Whitehorse Middle school on the east side was disgusted at what were described as inconvenient, even dangerous student drop-off conditions. Another parent at Schenk said overcrowding means kids don’t eat lunch until after 1 p.m.

“It’s hard to concentrate when you’re hungry — why didn’t these schools make the list?” he asked.

Another poster took the Madison school district to task for not routinely maintaining and modernizing buildings to avoid high-ticket renovations like that planned at Mendota.

From the campaign trail:

“I had been in the private sector and I felt like half my paycheck was going to insurance.”

Middleton’s property taxes for a comparable home are 16% less than Madison’s.

Aging Societies.

Scale, progressivity, and socioeconomic cohesion.

Finally, a number of questions were raised about expenditures from the 2005 maintenance referendum. I’ve not seen any public information on the questions raised several years ago.

Bill Moyers on declining household income.

Trial Balloon on Raising Madison’s Property Taxes via another School Referendum? Homeowners compare communities…..

Molly Beck

There’s been little movement since mid-March when Madison School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham proposed asking voters in November for $39.5 million in borrowing to upgrade facilities and address crowding.

The proposed referendum’s annual impact on property taxes on a $200,000 Madison home could range from $32 to $44, according to the district.

After discussing the idea, School Board members said that the always contentious idea of changes to school boundaries would at least have to be publicly vetted as a possible solution to crowding before moving forward with a referendum. There have not been any public discussions on the matter since.

Spending and accounting problems with the last maintenance referendum (2005) lead to a discussion of an audit.

I recently met a young “Epic” husband and wife who are moving from their Madison townhouse to the Middleton/Cross Plains area. I asked them what prompted the move? “Costs and taxes per square foot are quite a bit less” as they begin planning a family. See “Where have all the students gone“.

Their attention to detail is unsurprising, particularly with so many young people supporting enormous student loans.

Madison spends double the national average per student. I hope that District seeks more efficient use of it’s $402,464,374 2014-2015 budget before raising property taxes.

Dive deeper into the charts, here.

Madison School Climate, Achievement, Rhetoric & The New Superintendent

In light of Alan Borsuk’s positive article, I thought it timely understand the mountain to be climbed by our traditional $15k/student public school district. The charts above are a brief update of the always useful “Where have all the Students Gone” articles.
Further, early tenure cheerleading is not a new subject. Those interested might dive into the Capital Times & Wisconsin State Journal Superintendent (recently easily searched, now rather difficult) archive:
Cheryl Wilhoyte (1,569) SIS
Art Rainwater (2,124) SIS
Dan Nerad (275) SIS
That being said, Superintendent Cheatham’s comments are worth following:

Cheatham’s ideas for change don’t involve redoing structure. “I’d rather stick with an imperfect structure,” she said, and stay focused on the heart of her vision: building up the quality and effectiveness of teaching.
Improving teaching is the approach that will have the biggest impact on the gaps, she said.
“The heart of the endeavor is good teaching for all kids,” Cheatham said in an interview. Madison, she said, has not defined what good teaching is and it needs to focus on that. It’s not just compliance with directives, she said.

Perhaps the State Journal’s new K-12 reporter might dive into what is actually happening in the schools.
Related: Madison’s long term disastrous reading results and “When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before“.

“The notion that parents inherently know what school is best for their kids is an example of conservative magical thinking.”; “For whatever reason, parents as a group tend to undervalue the benefits of diversity in the public schools….”

Where have all the students gone?
Madison School Board President Ed Hughes:

Esenberg sets out to identify the fundamental differences between voucher advocates and opponents. His thesis is that views on vouchers derive from deeper beliefs than objective assessments of how well voucher schools perform or concerns about vouchers draining funds from public schools. To him, your take on vouchers depends on how you view the world.
Esenberg asserts that voucher advocates are united by their embrace of three fundamental principles: that a centralized authority is unlikely to be able to decide what is best for all; that families should be trusted to select their children’s schools since ordinary people are capable of making choices for themselves without paternalistic direction; and that “government does not do diversity, experimentation and choice very well.”
By implication, he asserts that voucher opponents think that a centralized authority will be able to decide what’s best for all, that families shouldn’t be trusted to make choices for their children, and that government control is the best way to foster innovation.
And there you have it. Your views on school voucher expansion are entirely explained by whether you prefer individual freedom, like the voucher advocates, or stultifying government control, like the voucher opponents. In cinematic terms, voucher opponents are the legions of lifeless, gray drones in Apple’s famous 1984 commercial and voucher supporters are the colorful rebel, bravely challenging the control of Big Brother and hurling her sledgehammer to smash mindless conformity. You couldn’t ask for a more sophisticated analysis than that, could you?
While his thesis invites mockery, Esenberg’s short article does present a bit of a challenge to voucher opponents like myself. Can we set out a coherent justification for our opposition that doesn’t depend on the facts that voucher schools drain needed resources from public schools and don’t perform any better? Sweeping those fairly compelling points aside, Esenberg asks, in effect, what else you got?

Mr Hughes anti-voucher rhetoric is fascinating on several levels:
1. The Madison School District’s long term, disastrous reading results. How much time and money has been wasted on anti-voucher rhetoric? Reading has long been job one.
2. Local private schools do not have much, if any availability.
3. Madison spends double the national average per student (some of which has been spent on program explosion). Compare Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending.
4. Madison’s inability to address its long-term disastrous reading results will bring changes from State or Federal legislation or via litigation.
5. Superintendent Cheatham cited Long Beach and Boston as urban districts that have “narrowed the achievement gap”. Both districts offer a variety of school governance models, which is quite different than Madison’s long-time “one size fits all approach”.
I recall being astonished that previous Madison School District administrators planned to spend time lobbying at the State level for this or that change – while “Rome is burning“. Ironically, Superintendent Cheatham recently said:

“Rather than do a lot of work on opposing the voucher movement, we are going to focus on making sure our schools are the best schools possible and the schools of choice in Madison,” Cheatham said.

Mr. Hughes in 2005:

This points up one of the frustrating aspects of trying to follow school issues in Madison: the recurring feeling that a quoted speaker – and it can be someone from the administration, or MTI, or the occasional school board member – believes that the audience for an assertion is composed entirely of idiots.

A great, salient quote. I would hope that the District would focus completely on the matter at hand, disastrous reading scores. Taking care of that problem – and we have the resources to do so – will solve lots of other atmospheric and perception issues.
In closing, I sense politics in the voucher (and anti-open enrollment) rhetoric. Two Madison School Board seats will be on the Spring, 2014 ballot. One is currently occupied by Mr. Hughes, the other by Marj Passman. In addition, local politics play a role in becoming school board President.

“We are not interested in the development of new charter schools”

Larry Winkler kindly emailed the chart pictured above.

Where have all the Students gone?

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin:

We are not interested in the development of new charter schools. Recent presentations of charter school programs indicate that most of them do not perform to the level of Madison public schools. I have come to three conclusions about charter schools. First, the national evidence is clear overall, charter schools do not perform as well as traditional public schools. Second where charter schools have shown improvement, generally they have not reached the level of success of Madison schools. Third, if our objective is to improve overall educational performance, we should try proven methods that elevate the entire district not just the students in charter schools. The performance of non-charter students in cities like Milwaukee and Chicago is dismal.
In addition, it seems inappropriate to use resources to develop charter schools when we have not explored system-wide programming that focuses on improving attendance, the longer school day, greater parental involvement and combating hunger and trauma.
We must get a better understanding of the meaning of ‘achievement gap.’ A school in another system may have made gains in ‘closing’ the achievement gap, but that does not mean its students are performing better than Madison students. In addition, there is mounting evidence that a significant portion of the ‘achievement gap’ is the result of students transferring to Madison from poorly performing districts. If that is the case, we should be developing immersion programs designed for their needs rather than mimicking charter school programs that are more expensive, produce inadequate results, and fail to recognize the needs of all students.
It should be noted that not only do the charter schools have questionable results but they leave the rest of the district in shambles. Chicago and Milwaukee are two systems that invested heavily in charter schools and are systems where overall performance is unacceptable.

Related links:

I am unaware of Madison School District achievement data comparing transfer student performance. I will email the Madison School Board and see what might be discovered.
Pat Schnieder:

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has some pretty strong ideas about how to improve academic achievement by Madison school children. Charter schools are not among them.
In fact, Madison’s ongoing debate over whether a charter school is the key to boosting academic achievement among students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District is distracting the community from making progress, Soglin told me.
He attended part of a conference last week sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Madison that he says overstated the successes elsewhere of charter schools, like the Urban League’s controversial proposed Madison Preparatory Academy that was rejected by the Madison School Board a year ago.
“A number of people I talked with about it over the weekend said the same thing: This debate over charter schools is taking us away from any real improvement,” Soglin said.
Can a new committee that Soglin created — bringing together representatives from the school district, city and county — be one way to make real progress?

The City of Madison’s Education Committee, via a kind reader’s email. Members include: Arlene Silveira, Astra Iheukemere, Carousel Andrea S. Bayrd, Erik Kass, Jenni Dye, Matthew Phair, Maya Cole and Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.

Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012


Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:

Annual Enrollment Report- School Enrollments and Capacities 2010

Superintendent Dan Nerad

The first attachment is a one-page overview summary of the past five years of enrollment history, the current year enrollment, and five years of projected enrollment by grade level. Overall, enrollment is generally flat for the district as a whole. However, enrollment has increased slightly for the past two (2) years. We project that this increase will continue for the next two years through 2012-13. After 2012-13 District overall enrollment K-12 will begin to decline slightly. Overall District enrollment has been remarkably stable since 1992 (minimum= 23,556 in 1992, maximum= 24,962 in 1998, average of 24,426 over the past 20 years.
By level, we project that only middle schools will continue to see increases in enrollment during the next five years whereas high and elementary schools will decline in enrollment. Elementary enrollments five years out are based largely on births 5 years prior. Births were at historical highs from 2004 to 2007 (over 3100 births in the City of Madison in each of those years, the highest since the mid 1960’s). Births declined in 2008 (-8%) and 2009 (-13%) respectively from the 2007 high.
The second attachment shows the detailed K-12 enrollment history and projections for each school. Actual enrollment is displayed for 2006 to 2011. Projections are through 2015-16. Projection years are boldfaced. The precision of projections at a school level and for specific grade levels within a school are less accurate when compared to the district as a whole. Furthermore, projections are much less reliable for later years in the projection timeline. Also, the worksheet reflects various program and boundary changes that were implemented and this accounts for some large shifts within schools and programs from one year to the next.

Related: 11/2005: Where Have all The Students Gone, and Dane County Population Trends: 1990 –.

Madison Schools enrollment remains steady at 24,622

via a Madison School District email:

Student enrollment in the Madison Metropolitan School District for the 2009-10 school year is up 82 students to 24,622 according to the official enrollment count conducted on the third Friday in September, as required by state law.
The 82 student rise over last year’s official enrollment count of 24,540 represents an increase of one third of one percent (0.33%).
Enrollment in Madison Schools has been remarkably consistent. This is the ninth straight year that MMSD enrollment has been between 24 and 25-thousand students.
Of note is the increase in the number of kindergarten students enrolled in Madison Schools. The count of 2,146 kindergarten students is:

  • 140 students above last year’s number (2,006);
  • the highest enrollment for that grade level in the last 15 years;
  • nearly four percent greater than the most recent projection (80 students above 2,066 projection).

For more information on kindergarten-12th grade enrollment, go to

Related: “Where have all the students gone?” The student population drives a school district’s tax & spending authority.

Madison’s Population Grew 22,491 from 2000 to 2008, School Enrollment Flat

Bill Glauber:

Madison continued its remarkable population surge with a 10.7% increase from 2000 to 2008, top among Wisconsin cities with a population of 50,000 or more. The capital also led Wisconsin in numerical growth, adding 22,491 people, for a total population of 231,916.
“Madison remains a very desirable place to live, and positive growth rates like this reflect that high quality of life,” Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said in a statement.
The new estimates are intriguing, both locally and nationally, because they detail America’s population at the cusp of the financial meltdown and in the midst of a housing bust. They’re also the last estimates to be released before the 2010 census is taken.
“Big cities are resilient,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. “They’ve been able to survive in a very difficult economy. These cities have diverse economies that can hold their own in these troubled times.”


Madison’s enrollment was 24,758 during the 1999-2000 school year and 24,189 during the 2008-2009 academic year. More here and here.
Given Madison’s academic orientation (UW-Madison, MATC, Edgewood College, not to mention a number of nearby institutions), our students (every one of them) should have access to world class academics.

Where to Educate Your Child? Madison Area is #2

Via a reader’s email: David Savageau (Contributing Editor of Expansion Management Management):

Three out of 10 of us either work in an educational institution or learn in one. Education eats up 8% of the Gross National Product. Keeping it all going is the biggest line item on city budgets. Whether the results are worth it sometimes makes teachers and parents–and administrators and politicians–raise their voices and point fingers.
In the 1930s, the United States was fragmented into 130,000 school districts. After decades of consolidation, there are now fewer than 15,000. They range in size from hundreds that don’t actually operate schools–but bus children to other districts–to giants like the Los Angeles Unified District, with three-quarters of a million students.
Greater Chicago has 332 public school districts and 589 private schools within its eight counties. Metropolitan Los Angeles takes in 35 public library systems. Greater Denver counts 15 public and private colleges and universities. Moving into any of America’s metro areas means stepping into a thicket of school districts, library systems, private school options and public and private college and universities.

Here are some of their top locations:

  1. Washington, DC – Arlington, VA
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham
  4. Baltimore -Towson
  5. Akron, OH
  6. Columbus, OH
  7. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY
  8. Syracuse, NY
  9. St. Louis, MO
  10. Ann Arbor, MI

The Madison area has incredible resources for our children. The key of course, is leveraging that and being open to working effectively with many organizations, something Marc Eisen mentioned in his recent article. Madison’s new Superintendent has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the community from curricular, arts, sports, health/wellness, financial and volunteer perspectives.

The Capital Times:

The Madison area, which includes all of Dane County as well as immediately adjoining areas, was awarded A+ for class size and spending per pupil in public schools, and for the popularity of the city’s public library.
The greater Madison area scored an A for being close to a college town and for offering college options.
Private school options in the greater Madison area were graded at B+.
There has been some confusion in the response to the rankings because they lump together numerous school districts — urban, suburban and rural.


The engineering-based program is just one example of the district’s willingness to bring college-level learning to his high school students. That effort appears to be paying off nationally, WISC-TV reported.
“It reinforces that what we’re trying to do as a district and as an area is working,” said Granberg. “And it’s getting recognized on a national level, not just a local or state level.”
“This is not a community that accepts anything but the best and so that bar is always high,” said Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Art Rainwater.
Rainwater also credits the ranking to teacher development programs.
“We spend an awful amount of time and an awful amount of effort working with our teachers in terms of how they deliver instruction to individual children,” said Rainwater.
He said the school district will continue to improve techniques, focusing on the needs of every student.

Wingra School proves that progressive education works. Could it be a model for a public charter school?

Jason Shephard:

Inside Wingra School, the day is just beginning, and already Lisa Kass is commandeering a discussion about violence sparked by storyboards written by her fourth- and fifth-grade students.
“Why do you play violent videogames?” she asks. “Do you think the violence affects you?” This leads to a 45-minute discussion that temporarily pushes back a math lesson.
“It’s cartoon violence, it’s not real violence,” says one boy. “Well, really the goal is to kill people,” admits another. That, says a third student, is why he plays mostly strategy videogames.
The students at Wingra are articulate, reflective and eager to share their opinions. They refine their thoughts as Kass prods them to be more specific or clearer.
Kass, a 19-year veteran Wingra teacher, says later: “I don’t want to censor them, but I want them to think about what’s appropriate and what effects violence might have on them and others.”


Parents prove charter schools work

Scott Milfred:

The magic of charter schools isn’t so much the innovation they strive to achieve. The magic is the effect these schools have on parents.
At the Nuestro Mundo charter school on Madison’s East Side, you have to win a lottery to get your child into the program. This is true even for parents like me who live just a few blocks from Allis Elementary School, where Nuestro Mundo (which means “Our World ” in Spanish) is housed.
Imagine that — parents flooding a city school with enrollment applications for their kids. This is the opposite trend that Madison fears and must avoid.
Though rarely discussed in a frank way, Madison is increasingly nervous about middle- to upper-income parents losing faith in city schools and moving to the suburbs. As so many Madison leaders love to say: “As the schools go, so goes the city. ” Madison doesn ‘t want to become Milwaukee.

Related: Where have all the students gone?

Madison School Board Discussion of School Models, Including Basic and Alternative Approaches

The Madison School Board’s Performance and Achievement Committee recently discussed alternative education models. Watch the video here (or download the mp4 file via a CTRL Click. mp4 files can be played back on many portable media players such as iPods). Listen via this mp3 audio file.

I Just Couldn’t Sacrifice My Son

David Nicholson:

When a high school friend told me several years ago that he and his wife were leaving Washington’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood for Montgomery County, I snickered and murmured something about white flight. Progressives who traveled regularly to Cuba and Brazil, they wanted better schools for their children. I saw their decision as one more example of liberal hypocrisy.
I was childless then, but I have a 6-year-old now. And I know better. So to all the friends — most but not all of them white — whom I’ve chastised over the years for abandoning the District once their children reached school age:
I’m sorry. You were right. I was wrong.
After nearly 20 years in the city’s Takoma neighborhood, the last six in a century-old house that my wife and I thought we’d grow old in, we have forsaken the city for the suburbs.


Megan McArdle has more.

“Politically Correct Trumps Substance Every Time”

Paul Soglin on Why the Prospects for Madison are so Bleak, Part II:

“Struck by the number of residents who said if things don’t improve soon, they’ll consider moving elsewhere.” Good grief. Its been going on for over a decade and really picked up around 2000. The school enrollment figures clearly show that. And go look at the private schools, bulging at the seams, for confirmation.
That’s OK. This is Madison. All is forgiven. Throw a good party on State Street, recycle a few beer cans, vote to impech Bush-Cheney, and it does not matter that we are losing the city.
Politically correct trumps substance every time.

Related: Barb Schrank on “Where have all the Students Gone?”:

MMSD Lost 174 Students While the Surrounding School Districts Increased by 1,462 Students Over Four School Years. Revenue Value of 1,462 Students – $13.16 Million Per Year*

Denver’s Attempt to Address Their “Enrollment Gap”

Superintendent Michael Bennet and the Denver School Board:

The Rocky Mountain News series, “Leaving to Learn [Denver Public Schools Enrollment Gap],” tells a painful and accurate story about the state of our school district. It is hard to admit, but it is abundantly clear that we will fail the vast majority of children in Denver if we try to run our schools the same old way. The evidence in Denver and from big-city school districts across the country is undeniable. Operating an urban school district in the 21st century based on a century-old configuration will result in failure for too many children. It is long past time to admit this. As a district and a community, we must gather strength and have the courage to make change, knowing that the changes we face are much, much less perilous than the status quo.
Many believe that our system is intractable and impossible to fix. They look at our high dropout rate, our low achievement rate, and decades of failed reform efforts in Denver and around this country, and conclude it cannot be done.
This answer is obviously intolerable for the 72,000 children in our school district, and for the tens of thousands of children who will receive a public education in Denver over the next decade. We must refuse to accept that this is the best we can do for the next generation, or, worse, that this is all we can expect of them.
In view of the current discussions in Denver about whether to close schools after years of declining enrollment and shifting demographics, now is the time to re-examine how our system works. No matter how compelling the arguments for school consolidation, school closures create pain and upset expectations about daily life. In the shadow of this potential dislocation, we are obligated to reconsider the way we do business to ensure that our schools and our students will succeed. In the coming months and years, we must renew and rejuvenate the educational opportunities available to all of Denver’s children.
Cities all across the country face dramatic change sooner or later. For a variety of reasons, we think Denver is in a position to create the first 21st century urban school district in the United States. Not the least of these reasons is our tremendous faith in the committed people who work for DPS and in the citizens of Denver. We must not make the easy, but terrible mistake of confusing a lack of confidence in the system with a lack of confidence in ourselves or our children.

Related; Barb Schrank’s “Where have all the Students Gone?“. Joanne Jacobs has more.

Madison Schools, New Population, New Challenges

Sandy Cullen:

Twenty-five years ago, less than 10 percent of the district’s students were minorities and relatively few lived in poverty. Today, there are almost as many minority students as white, and nearly 40 percent of all students are considered poor – many of them minority students. And the number of students who aren’t native English speakers has more than quadrupled.
“The school district looks a lot different from 1986 when I graduated,” said Madison School Board member Johnny Winston Jr.
The implications of this shift for the district and the city of Madison are huge, city and school officials say. Academic achievement levels of minority and low-income students continue to lag behind those of their peers. Dropout, suspension and expulsion rates also are higher for minority students.
“Generally speaking, children who grow up in poverty do not come to school with the same skills and background” that enable their wealthier peers to be successful, Superintendent Art Rainwater said. “I think there are certainly societal issues that are race-related that also affect the school environment.”
While the demographics of the district’s students have changed dramatically, the makeup of the district as a whole doesn’t match.
The overall population within the school district, which includes most of Madison along with parts of some surrounding municipalities, is predominantly white and far less likely to be poor. And most taxpayers in the district do not have school-age children, statistics show, a factor some suggest makes it harder to pass referendums to increase taxes when schools are seeking more money.
Forty-four percent of Madison public school students are minorities, while more than 80 percent of residents in the city are white, according to U.S. Census figures for 2000, the most recent year available. And since 1991, the percentage of district students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches has nearly doubled to 39 percent; in 2000, only 15 percent of Madison’s residents were below the poverty level.
Although the city’s minority and low-income population has increased since the 2000 census, it’s “nowhere near what it is in the schools,” said Dan Veroff, director of the Applied Population Laboratory in UW- Madison’s department of rural sociology.

Barb Schrank asked “Where have all the Students Gone? in November, 2005:

There’s a lot more at work in the MMSD’s flat or slightly declining enrollment than Cullen’s article discusses. These issues include:

Thoreau’s most recent PTO meeting, which included 50 parent and teacher participants, illustrates a few of the issues that I believe are driving some families to leave: growing math curriculum concerns and the recent imposition of mandatory playground grouping without any prior parent/PTO discussion.
Student losses, or the MMSD’s failure to capture local population growth directly affects the district’s ability to grow revenue (based on per student spending and annual budget increases under the state’s revenue caps).
The MMSD’s failure to address curriculum and govenance concerns will simply increase the brain flight and reduces the number of people supporting the necessary referendums. Jason Shepherd’s recent article is well worth reading for additional background.
Finally, Mary Kay Battaglia put together some of these numbers in December with her “This is not Your Grandchild’s Madison School District“.