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.

What else can we see looking at these two school years? The number of low income students in MMSD increased 2,146 (total low income increase was 2,942), the number of minority students in MMSD increased 1,133 (total minority increase was 2,080). In contrast, the number of non-low income students decreased in MMSD 2,230 (total decrease was 1,654), the number of white students decreased 1,307 (total decrease was 792 students, because the surrounding districts showed an increase in the number of white students comparing the two school years).
What big picture questions do these data raise?
*The source of data for public school, private and home school data is the WI Department of Public Instruction. These two years were selected due to limitations in the number of years of economic status data available. Year to year enrollment numbers move up/down, but for MMSD the trend has been toward fewer students over the past 10 years.

6 thoughts on “Where Have All the Students Gone?”

  1. Between 1997 and 2004, WINSS site shows that MMSD has lost 245 students.
    Looking at the data by grade shows that the declines had occurred in the elementary grades (prek5), primarily in the 1999-2001 school years. Of course, as these removed kids do not move to the next grade, the decline trickles into the higher grades.
    One would expect to see transistions at 6th and 9th grades, and the data for 2002-2004 can be interpreted to show that.
    In 2002, there was a net gain of 13 8th graders, but in 2003 there was a net loss of 45 9th grade students. Can and should we say there was net loss of 58 students away from our high schools?
    In 2003, there was a net loss of 77 8th graders, and in 2004, a net loss of 74 9th graders; that is, pretty much the same.
    But, there is also similar kinds of variability with each grade transistion, so without identifying the kids and reasons for moving out of MMSD or the kids and reasons for moving into MMSD, I find inferences too difficult to make.
    However, I will be interested in the 2005 numbers. The 8th grade in 2004 had an increase of 34. What will the 9th grade look like for 2005?
    Also, the lower grades are experiencing modest increases in enrollments. What will 2005 show, and will these modest increases continue to trickle up?

  2. There are certainly modulations in the data from year to year. I could have simply looked at the net change in the number of students since 1996 incorporating the yearly change in data, but I also wanted to summarize minority and low income data. Minority data have a longer timeline but low income data do not.
    I think if we only look at MMSD data, we miss what is happening in the areas surrounding Madison and we miss the opportunity to raise questions about a) what effect does this have on our academic offerings if the district continues to show a decrease in the number of non low-income students and minority students and b) what is the economic shift, if any, taking place.
    Perhaps, are we seeing an economic segregation taking place of public schools, such as happened in areas surrounding NYC and Chicago, beginning in the 1950s? Or, will we see an education shift not as severe as Cupertino, CA, but something like that?
    The data are put up to begin a broader discussion. Thanks for starting a dialogue.

  3. This year’s third Friday count is available at http://www.madison.k12.wi.us/re/enroll.htm along with past year data.
    Overall, PK-12 enrollment dropped, led by declines at middle and high schools. Elementary enrollment stabilized. Long term demographic trends continued.
    When interpreting enrollment data, it’s important not to overfocus on a single year. This is true both for enrollment at individual grades and the progression ratios. Use of a moving average is better.

  4. My question is simple: why doesn’t the state give more money to school districts “per child of poverty”? It costs more to educate these students.

  5. No doubt use of a rolling average would be better, perhaps someone will take the time to do that. I only had a short amount of time, and I wanted to ask some larger questions. When I looked at the data, I could clearly see the trends. I recommend people check out DPI’s WINss database.
    MMSD’s numbers are flat, declining and as many low-income moving into the district, there is nearly an equal decrease in the number of non low-income students. Not all minority or low income students are coming to MMSD – surrounding districts to a lesser degree are seeing changes.
    The state is not likely anytime soon to give more money per low income student, but I could be surprised. Some monies that do come in that help is Title 1 money, SAGE classes, ELL and special education dollar. My per student figure did not include these monies.
    One option is more money per low income student in a district, which assumes there is nothing the district can do about the increasing numbers of low income students and the decreasing numbers of non-low-income students. Even with increasing money, there are many other factors to consider, including the increasing percentage of low income/non-low income students. A recent times article talked about the negative effect on student achievement if that percentage gets too high.
    I’ve not understood why in MMSD there are schools where the low-income percentage is too much higher than the district percentage. Lincoln and Mendota are 70% – that’s too high.

  6. As someone who moved to Madison from out of state last year and has four non-low income (and non-minority) kids in the schools, I’d like to pass along my experience.
    Schools are our first priority when relocating (we pick a school district and then look for a house) and I spent time in high schools, middle schools and grade schools over a five month period from Feb 2004 through June 2004. My conclusion was that the MMSD schools do not present themselves well in comparison to those in surrounding areas (Middleton and Verona). The schools are less welcoming and the staff in the principal’s office less engaging. At MMSD, it seemed you were not “sold” on the quality of the school. The MMSD schools are also older and are not particularly well maintained.
    Many prominent city residents send their kids to private schools. Not too unusual, perhaps. However, based on what I had heard about the great public schools in town, I was surprised. The older generation in town speaks highly about how good the schools were when their kids attended, but seems to lack any “boosterism” now. Most media coverage of MMSD is also negative which hits you in the face as an outsider.
    We chose to live in Madison and our kids attend Middleton Cross Plains schools. Since moving to the city, I have been involved in working with kids, teachers and administrators at Jefferson, Memorial and their feeder elementary schools. I’ve been impressed but have also sensed the challenges that exist.

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