We've been discussing the new attendance data posted online here, by the DCSS Planning Department. Two new documents are available. One is called Enrollment Report, by school, by grade, which details enrollment numbers school by school as well as capacity and available seating. The other chart is called, "Attendance Area and Enrollment Report, home schools only" and details the attendance numbers as well as the number of students who live in the attendance zone compared to the numbers who transfer in or out of those attendance zones (a process as easy to tackle as herding cats). In fact, there are 550 students from "unknown" locations as well as 465 out of the district altogether.
Other tidbits we can infer from the data:
- Many schools surprisingly do not have sufficient students in the official attendance zone to support them. Chamblee, for instance, only has 706 "resident" students (students who live in the attendance zone). Lakeside, on the contrary, has 1,754 "resident" students (with a building capacity of 1,162 and current actual enrollment of 1,811).
- There are a few elementary schools where literally hundreds of 'resident' students are opting for other choices. These schools include Cary Reynolds, Cedar Grove, Chapel Hill, Flat Rock, Oak View, Panola Way, Pine Ridge, Pleasantdale and Princeton. Many of them are over-crowded as is, so if all of the resident students chose to attend, we would have to bring in trailers.
- Middle schools with the fewest resident students include Chamblee, Freedom, Lithonia, McNair, Salem and Stone Mountain.
- High schools students transfer out of Cedar Grove, Clarkston, Lithonia, MLK, McNair, Redan, Stephenson, Stone Mountain and Towers. (Many of these are new or newly renovated buildings, so obviously the building does not create an appeal.)
- The big picture here tells us that on average, nearly 1 out of 3 students in DCSS transfers out of the school assigned to their zone.
- Elementary students taking the transfer option, appear to be doing so to escape poor performing or over-crowded schools and tend to transfer to another public school with better test scores and a point of differentiation.
- Theme schools like Narvie Harris and the Academy of Technology and the Environment as well as DESA are popular alternatives. However, it looks like the new k-5 Leadership Academy charter (housed at New Birth Church), in spite of all the hype, was only able to garner 181 takers in the end. According to The Neighbor newspaper, The Museum School ended up with 137 students. No word on Peachtree Hope, but we heard that they had 1,000 applicants. Many may have opted out when they discovered that there was no free transportation.
- If you add up all of the "ins" and "outs" you find that there are 4,563 high school students not attending their neighborhood high school (the"outs"). You also find that of all of the regular, neighborhood high schools, there are 1,222 who have transferred "in". That leaves 3,341 students attending other DCSS schools? DSA? Eliz Andrews? Destiny? Alternative? Arabia?
- We have tabled the addition to Lithonia, however additions are still planned for MLK—which is apparently under-capacity by 673 students who reside in the attendance zone, but do not attend MLK—and Miller Grove. MLK may not need an addition after all, as obviously, the demand for MLK is not strong and Miller Grove's enrollment is currently just at it's capacity of 1,637.
- My takeaway from this is that we are all looking for diversity, differentiation and plenty of space in our schools. We also need to offer a variety of pathways through high school. We currently have several alternative-type options for those who 'struggle', but I wonder, if we offered something truly interesting to them in the first place, something that could lead to a viable job, would they in fact 'struggle' or might they actually flourish?
Overall, we are looking toward a vast sea of opportunity for progressive change. Before we head full sail into spending millions on renovating old schools, I would suggest that DCSS organize a think tank, which is hopefully part of the 2020 vision project initiated by Ms. Tyson. Not only do we need to evaluate buildings, structures and capacities, we need to decide what kind of educational system we want to become in the future—that decision would drive the types and sizes of buildings we need. Discussing the bricks and sticks first is putting the cart before the horse.
Education is rapidly changing and we need to offer educational choices—especially in our high schools—that are vastly different in their approaches in order to properly prepare all of our children for active citizenship. High schools can and should be "re-invented" as the old time methods of sending students to their "zoned" cookie-cutter high school with teachers lecturing while students sit attentively, listen and regurgitate answers on a multiple-choice test is rapidly falling out of favor. Hands-on learning, technology and online resources are the future of learning (see TED.com). Vocational and technical job training is in demand (check out this one in Ohio where they have a waiting list.) High schools need to become more focused on meeting individual needs and interests, making math/science/arts magnets very appealing. High schools should look toward community colleges for inspiration in education as campus-like facilities with greater learning flexibility and a less rigid graduation schedule could be offered.
I would even go so far as to change the phrase "Teaching and Learning" to "Guiding and Learning", as in the future, it will be the students who will drive the learning process. Teachers of the future will provide guidance, mentoring and modeling of good thinking skills as we wean away from the "Trivial Pursuit" method of "teaching" the answers to standardized tests into a life-long training in thinking and learning skills.
Please download the files and add a comment as to how you interpret the data. We'd love to hear your reactions.