Education activists say enrollment projections are wrong

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A group of education activists say the Montgomery County school system is basing important decisions about construction projects to combat overcrowding on inaccurate enrollment projections.

In one letter school leaders, County Executive Marc Elrich and Montgomery County Council, a group of 15 cluster coordinators who advocate for neighborhood schools, and officials from the County Parents and Teachers Association de Montgomery raised concerns about the new listing projections which they said differed significantly from previous models.

They said the latest projections do not take into account up-to-date county growth factors and bend the results to align them with historical trends that may no longer be valid.

“The take-home message is that no one is confident in these numbers,” said Jim Bradley, coordinator of the Walter Johnson High Schools Group. “Without this data being really precise, all the decisions you make are called into question. “

For example, in the new model, projections for Albert Einstein High School in Kensington showed 200 fewer students than the previous model, which worried some community members due to the ongoing and approved development in downtown Silver. Spring, where some students live.

Likewise, new projections for Ashburton Elementary School, a chronically overcrowded school in Bethesda, have fallen by more than 100 students, predicting that enrollment will remain stable, despite an increase in enrollment since 2000.

Without correcting what they say are “inaccuracies,” thousands of public school students could be adversely affected for decades as construction projects continue to continue across the county, the group claims.

Since 2008, the school system‘s enrollment projections have shifted by 5,000 students on average, according to data analyzed by the group. With an enrollment of about 163,000 students, the difference of 5,000 equates to an error rate of about 3.4%.

MGT Countywide Listing Projections.

“We recognize that no forecast will be 100% accurate, but we need to do our best with the abundance of data we have, and that’s not all,” the letter said. In addition, the enrollment projections made by MGT (of America Consulting) are already having a significant ripple effect across the county, and decision-makers at all levels are basing public policy decisions on these flawed numbers.

MGT did not return a phone call asking for comment. The school system said in a statement that it believed MGT’s projections were “based on solid data and practice.”

“We look forward to continuing to refine our analysis of our projections for the years to come and to make any necessary adjustments based on factors and conditions to ensure that MCPS is continually working with the most recent information to inform our forecast. registrations, ”the statement read.

The group refers to a recent decision by the school board to conduct a district boundary study to explore options to reduce overcrowding in various parts of the county, an effort that will depend heavily on school enrollment numbers. over the next decade. The group also highlights a vote in December by the mayor of Rockville and city council to allow some residential construction projects despite overcrowding at two high schools that serve parts of the city.

MGT used a weighted average four projection models and curves the results according to historical trends for each school. The company used housing stock data from 2016 and added a 1% county-wide growth rate.

The authors of the letter argue that there are areas in the county with little to no recent growth, while others have a housing growth rate of up to 4%.

MGT estimated that the number of enrollments in the school system would continue an overall upward trend throughout the 2027-2028 school year, when the company estimates that there will be 175,035 students across the county.

Brian Krantz, an activist parent from Bethesda, last year created a spreadsheet compile data on public enrollments and capital improvement programs for each of the 206 schools in the school system, and make the data available in graphical and interactive formats.

He suggests that the school system and MGT reconsider the new projection forecasts and use methods to include more up-to-date housing growth data and include approved, but not built, projects in the projections.

“The weights were chosen arbitrarily and subjectively in a manual process for each school – without using a scientific process, and result in projections based only on past enrollment trends,” Krantz said.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com


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