I have been participating on the Demographic Task Force. The purpose of the task force is not so much to help the District improve its enrollment projections as it is about helping the District improve how they communicate their enrollment projections. The Task Force has had two meetings and will have two more.
At the first meeting last week we got a quick education on the concepts and methods for projecting school enrollments.
At the second meeting this morning we got a much more specific data about enrollment trends regionally and in Seattle. While five years ago only about 67% of children born in Seattle showed up in our kindergartens five years later, last year that number grew to 80%. This is a HUGE change. Significantly reduced out-migration is the key factor.
We also got an education on how Seattle makes school enrollment projections. I have found Rachel Cassidy and Tracy Libros, the folks in Seattle most responsible for those numbers to have been plainspoken, honest, and candid about their practices. I always appreciate that. Today Ms Cassidy showed us two specific examples, Roxhill, where the projections were very close to the actual enrollment and Garfield, where the projections were pretty far off target.
The assumptions used to develop the Garfield projections proved wrong, as we all know, but the method by which they were made were solid and the way they went wrong was not very predictable - the big problem came from unexpected enrollment by 11th and 12th grade students. Yes, they underestimated the number of 9th grade students, but not nearly to the same degree. After being walked through the process and the numbers I'm a lot more sympathetic about the District's Garfield projection. I probably owe someone an apology.