Arizona Kids Winning in the District Competition for Enrollment

March 6, 2018

(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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