Over the past year, there has been a lot of conversation about enrollment in the district. There is no question that enrollment is a key and critical performance indicator to monitor. Allow me to share several pieces of information to help inform your thinking.
Unless otherwise stated, the number of students referenced is the funded count of students, not the head count of students.
These are two different numbers. Funded count is critical as it utilizes the head count of students in the calculations of State Equalization Funding that school districts receive.
For school year 2017-18, the Oct. 1 funded pupil count for preschool through 12th grade is 928 students. This number represents a loss of 103 funded students since 2013, which is a decrease of 9.99 percent.
From last year to this year the funded count decreased 61 students, a decrease of 6.57 percent. Platte Canyon School District is considered a declining enrollment district; therefore the state uses a five-year average in the determination of the funding calculation.
This is important to understand because next year, the averaging formula will no longer include historical larger funded pupil count numbers.
Our student management system is Infinite Campus. According to our records, from 2013 to 2017, there is very little change in the number of students enrolling in the district.
Over this time frame, data from the beginning of the year to the end of the year consistently indicate between 1200 and 1250 records of enrollment.
However, during the same timeframe, the enrollment change is reflected in the number of students leaving the district. While enrollment normally fluctuates throughout the school year, the number of leavers outpaces the number of enrollments, driving the decline in average funded pupil count. The middle school level has the most stable enrollment trends.
Where are the students going? The number of families choosing home-based education is significant. From 2013 to 2017 the number has almost doubled from 18 to 32 funded students. From last year to this year the change represents an increase of 10.34 percent.
Of course, the proverbial elephant in the room is how many students leave our district and choose to attend another district?
According the 2017 Oct. 1 count, there are 254 PCSD students attending schools not in their parents district of residence.
Fifteen students are attending online programs (six students at the elementary level, two students at the middle level, and seven students at the high school level).
Two hundred and twenty-four students attend Jefferson County schools (100 students at the elementary level, 25 students at the middle level, and 99 students at the high school level). The remaining 15 students are scattered miscellaneously throughout the Denver metro area.
So what is the data telling us? We have three areas to focus and learn from. Why are families choosing home based education? Why are families choosing on-line education? And why do families/students choice out of our district to attend our neighboring district?
We need to understand the answers to these questions through the lenses of elementary and high school families and students, as these two levels represent the largest numbers of student loss.
In my experience, families choose elementary schools for very different reasons than students choose which high school to attend.
Late last spring we issued an email survey to families and students considered leavers. The response rate to the survey questions was 8.8 percent from families and 15.8 percent from students.
Eight questions were asked. The responses were then grouped into three categorical reasons for leaving: neutral, push or pull.
A push reason for leaving is generally something within our control. Meaning, are we driving our students away?
A pull reason for leaving is something outside of our control. Meaning, are they are being pulled toward another option for reasons outside of our control?
Interestingly enough, all neutral responses were specific to home schooling and online schooling. Sixty-two, or 93 percent, of push responses cited one of the push options alone or in combination with another push option.
The big take-away for the category of push was conflict with school personnel, other students or families who attend the school.
Twenty-eight or 46 percent of pull responses cited one of the pull options alone or in combination with another pull option.
The big-take away for the category of pull was specific academic program options. This data helps inform the difference between attracting students and retaining students and where to focus our energies.
Complete survey results can be found on the district website.
Currently, we are reviewing program options for students. We are researching social-emotional programming for students and we have realigned our school counselor and social worker staff to better support student needs.
DCES is reaching out to families that choose home schooling or online school to learn more from them directly. And, in the fall of 2018 we will, again, increase the preschool program by one additional full day classroom as a long-term enrollment strategy. The high school recently received a grant from the Colorado Department of Education to support a comprehensive diagnostic review.
Enrollment in our district will continue to be a critical conversation. We need to be thoughtful and inclusive about how we think and develop strategies. We must respectfully work together and keep what’s best for kids at the forefront of any decisions.
As always, I welcome you into our schools. Please visit the Platte Canyon website at www.plattecanyonschools.org for current information.