Challenges of Projecting Student Enrollment in a High Growth, Choice-Oriented School District
Arthur Wittman, Demographer, Palm Beach County School District
Cohort Survival has provided accurate K-12 enrollment projections in Palm Beach County School District. However, variability in actual vs. projected enrollment at individual schools has caused misdirection of resources, over/under staffing, overcrowding, needed additional portable classrooms and non-compliance with interlocal agreements regarding concurrency. High growth from new residential development and immigration, magnet/ choice programs, career academies, opportunity scholarships, NCLB transfers and lack of available accurate data are factors which impact modeling accuracy. Cohort survival methodology applied to small geographic areas has been employed for three years to address variability issues and increase projection accuracy for individual schools. Kindergarten enrollment is calculated using historical averaging, trend analysis or linear regression. Variability in individual school projected versus actual enrollment over the last three years is compared to historical projection accuracy in previous school years using appropriate statistical tests. A qualitative assessment is offered as to utility of the methodology in reducing variability.