October Count has come and gone. Schools and districts across the state are working to validate data and finalize numbers before submitting data to the state. Our Data Submissions Team is working closely with school staff in this process as this data determines everything from per pupil funding allocated to districts, and in CSI’s case, to each of its CSI schools, to the demographics of each school and district’s student population.
What we’ve seen in Colorado over the last few years is declining enrollment in some regions in the state. These trends have shown up at CSI schools, too. One question we are commonly asked by our schools is:
How can we be better at estimating enrollment?
Unlike a geographic district that sometimes has access to demographers and/or uses a common enrollment system to track transfers across schools within the district, these are not realities for CSI. As a statewide authorizer, we have schools across the state in over 20 towns and cities. Many are serving students across several districts.
When I was a CSI School Leader, I attended informational meetings at neighboring schools to get an idea of programming changes that may impact my school’s enrollment. Charter schools in Grand Junction work collaboratively to support student recruitment efforts through joint marketing opportunities. Our high schools make connections with the local middle schools. Our middle schools make connections with local elementary schools. Our elementary schools make connections with local preschools.
CSI has also worked hard to use the resources we have to support our schools in estimating enrollment:
1. Projected to Actual Enrollment Trends Over Time
Each Spring, our Finance Team provides an enrollment projection template to each of our schools. Included in the template are year over year enrollment projections and enrollment actuals for the school to consider as they plan for the coming year. For example, is the data showing natural breaks in attrition? If so, how might the school work to counteract that through retention strategies, or at the very least, account for that in projections for the coming year?
2. Regional Market Analyses
Over the last few years, our Evaluation & Assessment Team has been working hard to provide both charter school applicants and existing schools more information about regional enrollment trends. CSI Regional Market Analysis Reports include data on the change in school-aged children over time, district-wide enrollment trends including data of families choicing into and out of various districts, and performance of existing options. We now have annually released market analyses for Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, East Denver, and Douglas County with more in the works. They are all housed on our Applicants page of our website.
We continue to think of supports we can provide as an authorizer that equip our schools with greater information from which to build enrollment projections. We continue to support collaboration across schools and partners to further this effort as well.