Arizona Kids Winning in the District Competition for Enrollment

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Looking through the Arizona Auditor General report on Arizona school districts, I noticed interesting variation in enrollment trends. Arizona has been the second fastest growing state for decades, and Maricopa County has become the fastest growing county in the nation. Nevertheless, many school districts show steady enrollment trends, and some even declining enrollment. Of course there are others where enrollment is growing like mad, like Chandler (a Phoenix area suburb):

A relatively small percentage of districts are taking the lead on absorbing enrollment growth statewide, along with the charter sector. The enrollment surge in Chandler seems to be working out academically: more kids and more kids performing at a high level:

Other suburban districts have not fared as well in the competition for enrollment such as Scottsdale Unified:

This decrease in enrollment is despite of 4,000 open enrollment kids who have transferred into Scottsdale Unified. According to a district demographic study 9,000 families have paid the real estate premium to live in Scottsdale Unified boundaries but choose to send their children to school elsewhere (mostly charter schools). Scottsdale Unified has had a string of recent scandals, with the Superintendent placed on administrative leave, but we should not let this distract us from improving academic trends in Scottsdale Unified:

We can see similar trends in southern Arizona. Tucson Unified also has a declining enrollment trend:

The academic results in Tucson Unified could look better compared to peer districts (middle columns) or statewide averages (right columns):

Vail Unified is one of the Tucson area surrounding districts taking in a number of open enrollment students. Accommodating growth rather than coping with enrollment decline has been the issue in Vail:

Vail getting additional students seems to be working out academically for many students as well, with proficiency rates substantially higher than in TUSD:

Recently we learned that open-enrollment students outnumber charter students approximately 2-1 in Maricopa County. Choice in Arizona is not being done to districts, but rather by districts. Note as well that rather than a zero sum game, there are positive academic trends in Arizona districts including both districts with declining and increasing enrollment. In this competition, the kids are the winners!

 

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6 Responses to Arizona Kids Winning in the District Competition for Enrollment

  1. Mike Norton says:

    Scottsdale Unified School District will suffer another body blow when enrollment drops 3,000 to 4,000 students soon. The combined factors of 3 BASIS Charter licenses in or on the SUSD Boundaries, the expansion of Scottsdale Prep (Great Hearts) and the worth Human Resources tactics imaginable under Denise Birdwell with the Board beaming as she brutalized Teachers for 2 years.

    If there are 15,000 In District kids still attending SUSD by end of 2020, we will be fortunate. Voters are doing their part. Two Overrides and a big Bond.

    And perhaps all that money was the cause of the debacle that resulted. Too much money sitting around always attracts the corrupt and the inept.

    It will be a travesty if all the new school buildings end up drifting in to the hands of Charters or others as enrollment fades. Voters ponied up all that cash to support Public Schools. Enormous winning margin on the two school related ballot measures in 2016.

  2. matthewladner says:

    SUSD is in a bad way administratively, but at least the academic trends are positive and the change in leadership creates an opportunity. Maricopa is also the fastest growing county. I’ll bet you a quarter that they are north of 18,000 enrolled at the end of 2020.

    • Michael J. Norton says:

      I’ll take that bet. There will be a Teacher Exodus this year. Too many of the Birdwell tyrants are still in leadership positions. After 2 years of Birdwell far too many Teachers are fed up over the rehiring of the Birdwell appointed bullies.

      That plus the 3 new BASIS campuses will be a challenge that I doubt SUSD can stand up to.

      So let’s bet 2 Quarters.

      1 – Total enrollment less than 20,000 in AY 2020
      2 – In District enrollment less than 16,000 in AY 2020

      And then if either of us is up 2:0, we go double or nothing on how many more Superintendents will have been appointed. I say 3 after Fuller. But I’m a pessimist.

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