Take Nothing from the MMSD at Face Value – Part 2

I previously posted a warning to take nothing from the MMSD at face value.
Here’s another reason.
The MMSD claims that capacity at Lapham Elementary stands below 67%. However, the MMSD reports Lapham’s maximum capacity at 304 students, and this year’s attendance at 252 students, giving Lapham a current enrollment of 82.9% of capacity.
It’s easy to believe that the MMSD administration has a hidden agenda to close an east side school when the administration plays with the truth.
Click here for a chart of enrollment and capacity.

9 thoughts on “Take Nothing from the MMSD at Face Value – Part 2”

  1. Ed,
    I disagree that MMSD is misleading us with data…although I encourage questions to understand it.
    1. The link to enrollment and capacity is not working (or at least not for me).
    2. I have not seen figures for the Lapham capacity at less than 67%. At least, I can not find that on the MMSD website.
    3. I have found the capacity at 72%…that calculation is without EC (early childhood or pre-kindergarten) numbers which = 220 in ’04-’05.
    4. The number you use to calculate the ~83% includes this number as the chart that you link to shows 33 students in the PK class. Meaning, to stay consistent in the calculation is about the same as last year with 72% capacity (219/304).
    Conclusion…MMSD did not mislead, the data is presented differently to anticipate increasing enrollment at the school as the neighborhood demographics change.

  2. The link should be working now, Marisue.
    I don’t know why people put Lapham’s capacity at less than 67%, but Lapham was mentioned in the State Journal newspaper article this morning, and its targetting for closing is a concern among members of the east side task force, from what I understand.
    However, from your figures (with or without early childhood students), Lapham doesn’t fall below 67% and shouldn’t be targetted for closing based on the 67% criteria, I guess.
    By the way, two years ago the MMSD totally remodeled the basement of Lapham to accomodate the early childhood program. If Lapham were to close, I haven’t heard any discussion about where the early childhood program would be located.

  3. Re: Lapham Early Childhood Program, I believe that it would have to be moved if the school was
    mothballed. Every high school attendance area has an Early Childhood program, and this program is VITAL for kids who have a learning disability. I know this first hand, as my autistic 6th grader is an alumni of Lapham Early Childhood. The Lapham Early Childhood area is completely segregated from the rest of the school, so Lapham, if needed, could serve other programs like the Alternative Program. However, I’d caution that no one at the task force level has proposed to close any elementary schools yet.
    And i’d agree that there are a number of “statistics” that MMSD puts out that don’t tell the whole picture. Mari Sue pointed that out with Leopold’s outposting numbers not being reflected in their attendance vs. Physical Plant capacity, and Lapham’s Early Childhood (Pre-Kindergarten) numbers also skew things…Haven’t they ever heard of the *asterisk*?

  4. Just to clear up a few misunderstandings – the 67% figure is from 04-05 not the current year. We will be getting the most current figures shortly. Sandy Cullen was working from the data from last year – not something the administration or Board members have said about the current year’s numbers.
    Secondly, the early childhood program is a very valuable program (as well as a state requirement) and the task forces will have to assure that any proposal has space for those classes. However, since the program serves a larger area than one school’s attendance area, it can be moved to schools that have adequate space.

  5. My comment was only directed at the “numbers” portion of the discussion. The program is probably fantastic.
    The charts I had looked up on http://www.mmsd.org, helped me realize how the number from last year (220) was calculated. The one I found stated the total of 220 did not include EC (early childhood). It was not an asterisk, but it was in the column header. I agree, either way that it does not depict, less than 67%.
    I’m not looking at nor have I attended the East Task Force meetings, but I have not found MMSD stating for fact that a specifi school is up for consideration to close. All I have heard is the discussion for having the task forces, community involvement and respect for the options that will be presented.
    I believe the task force is looking at how to handle the schools, some at capacity and some less than 80%. And it will be the task force that I will listen to most. They do deserve our respect for stepping up and trying to come up with new ideas…all on voluteer time.
    For me, as a city tax payer, I’d be concerned if they closed a school and the neighborhood demographics changed and there was a sudden need for space. Housing sales, are difficult to predict; that’s what is also contributing to the West/Memorial overcrowding…older neighborhood homes are being sold to young families with 2-3 children. In one week we had 5 homes in our neighborhood that sold last spring. These 5 homes were occupied by young couples without children. The new buyers…each had 2-3 children of elementary age. That’s a 10-15 student increase in one week.

  6. According to the figures that I can find on the MMSD Web site, in 2004-05 Lapham had a total enrollment of 246 students for a capacity of 80.9%, with just the k-2 enrollment it had a capacity of 72.3%.

  7. Thanks for flagging this, Ed. I’ve found that the gaps between reports and verifiable fact in MMSD numbers can be attributed to any of a number of causes. They are disconcerting when they happen – while someone usually offers a verbal explanation, that isn’t much help to the person who is trying to use the data without the ad hoc clarifications.
    Beyond the gap between 67% and 83%, I’m concerned that there does not appear to be any serious engagement with real live demographers, who actually study population trends. As far as I can tell, the enrollment projections are arrived at by extrapolating from the most recent 3rd Friday enrollment numbers. Alas, humans – and their demographic data – rarely follow tidy linear progressions.
    Even if one rejects the insights that a good social science statistician could bring to the discussion, anecdotal evidence suggests that enrollment patterns on the isthmus – or more precisely in my little Marquette neighborhood paradise – follow cyclical patterns.
    If the amount of Little Tyke equipment, double strollers, and joggers with babies are any indication, the various neighborhood schools will have plenty of students starting c. 3 years from now. Ironically, I opposed re-opening Lapham precisely because I thought that the enrollments were too unstable to guarantee steady full use of the facility….

  8. Ed – I agree that these numbers can be a little confusing. For example, it’s not clear if the capacity of Lapham is calculated with or without the pre-K program. Since the spreadsheets we got last year on the Long Range Planning committee compare the K-2 enrollment to the capacity, one would logically conclude that they excluded the space used for the pre-K program when they came up with the capacity number for Lapham. But I know never to assume anything logical when I’m looking at district data, so I’ll be sure and clarify this point at the next meeting of our East Area task force.
    As others have said, the task force itself has not discussed closing any schools. The topic just makes for good press I guess. Everything is still speculation at this point and lots of people like to speculate.

  9. Jill,
    Another question to help understand the data and capacity would be if the district adds Marquette’s totals along with Lapham, since it looks like they are a paired school.

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