Mr. Kendrick was the featured speaker at the Wednesday Work Session on Capacity Management and, despite a long PowerPoint (that he powered thru - staff take note), he was clear and concise. And, boy is he a guy who likes his work - his enthusiasm for demographics was right out there.
Second, I'll get to what he said but I feel a deep sadness to what he told the room. Why? Because our district could have been tracking this all along and somehow didn't. We have a demographer who is a very nice person but somehow all this data eluded staff. We had parents, in all corners of the city, telling the district about housing projects and rising neighborhood birthrates. And, we had, in the person of parent Kellie LaRue, someone raising these red flags and who should have been listened to because this is what she does for a living.
In short, it didn't have to get to be this bad. Certainly, no one could have seen how long this recession would go on. Certainly no one knew what the 2010 Census would show us. But there was enough to have given anyone pause.
In short, his low, medium and high range of enrollment for SPS by 2020, is about 53,000, 56,000, and 60,000 respectively.
One odd thing is that the October headcounts for 2011 are not included in this report (don't know why) and he urges the district to include those in their decisions.
The assignment plan was one factor to drive enrollment higher but "enrollment had already been growing in the two years prior to that change. So what is going on?"
Between October 2006 and October 2007, the District's enrollment declined by 392 students; the 5th straight year that enrollment declined. By October 2008, enrollment had grown by 312 students and enrollment increased by another 392 students be October 2009.
Clearly, some of the trends that are driving enrollment were already happening prior to the implementation of the new assignment plan.
Several districts around the Puget Sound like Lake Washington and Bellevue were experiencing the same thing - after years of decline, new growth. Bellevue's growth between 2007-2010 was higher than any other district in King County. And the faster growing districts, like Puyallup and Bethel, started slow enrollment declines.
School districts that are dependent on new housing development for their growth have seen a decline in their enrollment trends as home construction and sales have slowed.
The best explanation for what is happening is that people are not moving out to the surrounding areas and suburbs like they were during the housing boom years.
The best evidence that people are not moving as much as they once did comes from the school district's own enrollment data. (bold mine).
Mr. Kendrick explains that there is in-migration (students moving in over the course of a year) and out-migration (students moving out over the course of a school year). He says that BOTH numbers are down for SPS since 2005-2006. Basically, "fewer people are moving overall." BUT, while the annual in-migration is only down a couple of hundred for the last couple of years, the out-migration number "shows almost 1000 fewer children and their families moving out of the school district between 2009 and 2010."
Fewer families than usual are leaving the city. AND it is important to note that this trend began BEFORE the new assignment plan was implemented.
The most notable trend is at the kindergarten level. He explains that there is no "systematic city count of preschool children that could be used" for kindergarten enrollment projections.
So we cannot be sure if the increase in kindergarten enrollment since 2008 is due to fewer families with preschool age children leaving the city, or if it is due to more families with preschool children moving into the city prior to their children reaching kindergarten age. In fact, it could be a combination of both of these factors.
The biggest change at kindergarten is the percentage of the birth cohort that is "captured" by the school district.
This “capture rate” has increased dramatically since then, climbing to 57.3% in 2008 and 58.8% in 2009. With the implementation of the assignment plan change in 2010, the rate hit 63.4%.
So where do private schools fit in? Pretty much at the same rate as they always have.
But it is interesting to note that at the same time that the Seattle Public Schools has seen an increase in its share of the birth cohort at kindergarten, the private schools have experienced a similar trend. The "attraction rate" for private schools is also up. It may well be that in the coming years the new assignment plan will influence parent decisions about public versus private schools, but so far there is no evidence to support this conclusion at the kindergarten level.
What about going forward? He points to a possible "cultural shift" in people who do not want to live in one place and work in another.
So unless homes begin turning over at a more rapid pace, or a greater percentage of the available homes are bought by families with children, or who plan to have children, enrollment is unlikely to be impacted by any substantial change in in-migration rates.
On the other hand it is likely that enrollment in Seattle and King County will increase in the coming decade due to an expected increase in births. The average number of births in Seattle between 2006 and 2009 (students eligible for school between 2011 and 2014) was approximately 7800, about 700 more per year than the period between 1995 and 2005.
He took a look at Census data and found:
Based on this analysis the K-12 population in Seattle is expected to grow by 7000 students in the coming decade. Assuming Seattle continues to enroll about 76% of this population, with the remaining 24% in private schools, the District's enrollment would increase from 47,000 students in 2010 to about 53,000 by 2020.
His upper-end forecast?
If the most recent out-migration rates were to continue out to 2020, with a kindergarten attraction rate of approximately 60% (the district would continue to enroll about 60% of the eligible birth cohort in a given year) then enrollment could grow to approximately 60,000 by 2020.
From a planning point of view, it is much better to be ahead of a growth curve than behind it, especially with respect to facilities.
He was very clear on this point to the Board; don't worry about building too much. He believes the district will, by 2020, have the growth to support it even with the low forecast numbers of 53,000 students.
For this reason it is important that the District continue to explore the various methods suggested in this report (and others as well) to insure that the forecast methods consider and take account of pertinent information.
More specifically, it is recommendd that the District continue to monitor the regional K-12 enrollment picture. If growth begins to pick up in outlying areas this could be indicative of an increase in out-migration form the city of Seattle. The regional housing market should also be monitored. AS the regional real estate market improves out-migration from Seattle could accelerate. I would also recommend that the latest census data and the complied housing data be "mined" for its potential value in predicting future growth by neighborhood.
Finally, it is worth nothing that while the District may be to blame for not being fully prepared for the recent trends, there is some argument to be made that the extent of the change would have been hard to predict initially. (bold mine)
The best lesson to be learned is that it is important to gather as much demographic and contextual information as possible when doing projections. Even if this information does not lead to better forecasts in the coming year, it can, at the very least provide a better understanding of what is happening with enrollment.
I believe Mr. Kendrick was being diplomatic here as he also clearly outlines where he went for his data and if he could line it up, I suspect others could have as well.
Folks, I think this is going to be a tough next five years. I feel deeply for all of you in the elementary and middle school grades where it seems apparent that it will be felt the most.
This is an issue with a lot of moving parts. It really needs a lot of eyes on deck and I hope now the district will listen to the input they get both from the FACMAC and from parents with their feet on the ground in their schools and communities.
Someone here commented on another thread (about the Board elections), that life would go on. Indeed it will but what the district and Board do here and now will affect this district for decades to come.