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?