Monday, October 25, 2010

a decline by any other name

Note the story today about continuing enrollment declines in the Pittsburgh School District.   The headline factoid is that enrollment dropped 3% year over year with data for the current school year.  I don't quite get the headline and quotes about slowing or flattening decline. 3% is roughly the average rate of decline over the last decade.

I have not had time to update this,but this table tells a deeper story all by itself. This is the enrollment trend in the system for pre-K through grade 12.  So it is a slightly different number than is being reported in the news which is K-12.  But you see the trend, I'll add a picture of it when I get a chance.

YearTotal enroll.% change

Source: 1987-2009: NCES CCD

Note that news accounts say the school district self-reports total enrollment for the 2009-2010 year as being down to 26,123 and the latest numbers being 25,326 for 2010-2011.  Again, those two numbers reflect a slightly different universe than the time series above.  Above is total enrollment including pre-K, whole the reported numbers in the news seems to be K-12.  Must be 1000-1400 or so in pre-K somewhere.

I also am unclear about the demographic projections/trends indirectly cited as the reasons for all of this.  City-level population projections are very different from regional or even county level demographic projections.  Municipal level population projections are not as much impacted by natural population change (births and deaths) as they are migration.  The city in of Pittsburgh is much more impacted by migration trends impacting it's future population levels than say the county.  Lots of movement within the region that impacts all municipalities, but in particular the city of Pittsburgh.  The variation of intra-regional migration trends is much more than the sheer demographics impacting the region as a whole. Those intra-regional migration numbers average out to a much less volatile inter-regional migration rate. and of course, school enrollment has to address movement in and out of private/parochial/charter schools as well. 

Enrollment numbers are hard numbers... or at least a better number than a lot of other numbers we have on the city year over year.  Note that the census bureau actually recently revised upward its City of Pittsburgh enrollment numbers back through the last several years.   That is not saying the trend turned up, but that the downward trend has not been as fast as we thought over the last several years.  But that has been in population, not school enrollment. 

What to do?   Too bad nobody wants to pay as much for old school buildings as old parking lots.


Anonymous MH said...

I think part of the problem may be the district's big public push was Pittsburgh Promise and when it should have focused more on not sucking quite as bad.

Monday, October 25, 2010 9:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the story behind that 10 percent decline in 07-08?

Monday, October 25, 2010 3:13:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Is that when the RAND study made it harder for them to whitewash over the number of drop outs?

Monday, October 25, 2010 3:48:00 PM  

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