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Do Long-term School Enrollment Projections Have Value?

According to Scott McCaffrey of the Arlington Sun Gazette today, "A consultant has thrown cold water on suggestions that the Arlington school system try to provide enrollment projections beyond a decade-long window."

McCaffrey writes:

“I just don’t think it would be worth the time and effort . . . there’s too many variables,” Richard Grip of Statistical Forecasting told School Board members on April 6, suggesting that a 10-year time frame was about the longest that would make much sense.

“If we’re looking out 25, 30 years, those kids haven’t been born yet,” said Grip, who has been reviewing Arlington Public Schools’ forecasting efforts for a year. “Fertility rates change over time, the number of women that come in of child-bearing age changes. You can’t forecast housing growth or housing conversions that far out.”

"After years of a relatively stable student population, Arlington has seen a boom in recent years, largely from single-family neighborhoods. The current enrollment of 26,000 is expected to top 30,000 by 2021 and, while estimates have varied, the potential of eventually hitting 40,000 has not been discounted.

"School Board member Reid Goldstein said Grip had presented a “comprehensive and fascinating” report, but wondered why recent projections of enrollment trends at individual schools had been more significantly off.

"Grip responded with a common-sense answer: Because individual schools have smaller populations than the district as a whole, smaller changes have a bigger impact."

McCaffrey ended his report by noting, "Unless it's a case of sheer luck, 'there's not ever a chance you're going to get this on the money,' (Grip) said.'"

It would be interesting to know the amount that Arlington County taxpayers paid a consultant to learn that projections are never perfect. An even better question is why it was necessary to hire a consultant to tell School Board members what competent staff should be able to explain to School Board members if they were business school graduates.

Growls readers with questions or comments about school enrollment projections are urged to contact the Arlington School Board. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the School Board office at (703) 228-6015.

And tell them ACTA sent you.


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