Number of students at MPS rising

Superintendent says district exceeding projections

MARSHALL — For the past nine years, the Marshall Public School District has had a steady rise in student enrollment, increasing by 382 students or 17.9 percent during that time.

The actual funded number of students for the 2010-11 school year was 2,139. The following year, 53 additional students were recorded, marking a 2.5 percent increase and a total of 2,192.

After a minor increase (eight students) during the 2012-13 year, student enrollment grew significantly. An increase of 40 students — 1.8 percent increase — pushed enrollment up to 2,240 during 2013-14, followed by another 70 students — 3.1 percent increase — for a total of 2,310 in 2014-15.

The biggest jump happened during the 2015-16 school year, when 137 more students were recorded, marking a 5.9 percent increase (2,446 total). The following year, there were 10 more students for an increase of 0.4 percent (2,456 total).

“Some years, we’ve had significant increases,” Marshall Superintendent Scott Monson said at the board meeting on Monday. “We now have more students than we did all the way back to 1999, when the Minnesota Department of Education started tracking enrollment.”

While there are many variables involved in projecting enrollment, the district has been very proactive in its efforts. Former state demographer Hazel Reinhardt first shared her reputable projections with the district a handful of years ago.

Reinhardt’s projections were based on a number of components and factors, including net migration from one grade to the next, enrollment options, trends in distribution of students by grade, kindergarten “capture rates,” recent births and available housing options.

Even at the high end, with high kindergarten “capture rates” and high migration, Reinhardt’s projections are more conservative than the actual increases MPS is experiencing. For example, Reinhardt predicted there could be as many as 2,389 students enrolled in the 2016-17 school year. In reality, the district actually had 67 more students than projected. The previous year, actual enrollment showed 115 more students than Reinhardt’s highest projection.

“We’ve exceeded what she’s projected, in some cases I’d say significantly,” Monson said. “We’ve outpaced her projections, so you kind of have to keep that in mind when you look at her projections for 2018-19 and 2019-20.”

Reinhardt’s projections — updated in 2015 — show that MPS could have as many as 2,730 students by the 2023-24 school year.

SchoolFinances.com projections show an even higher differential, with 2,804 students during the 2023-24 year on the conservative side and 3,055 students on the high side.

“They use some of the same things, but they have their own ratios and formulas that they use,” Monson said. “They use some very similar ones, but they also bring in some different things that Ms. Reinhardt did not use.”

Some of the components and factors utilized for the SchoolFinances.com projection include weighted cohort survival, cohort ratios, numerical survival, historical enrollment — Oct. 1 Minnesota Department of Education data and end of the year MDA data — as well as kindergarten enrollment information — recent births and “capture rates,” linear progression and county births.

“There are 13 different variables that you can change with School Finance’s ENPRO, a product we subscribe to, and it spits out numbers left and right at you,” Monson said.

Using what has already been provided, MPS has also created its own projections, based on actual funded enrollment numbers, grade progression history, incoming kindergarten class, transitioning from eighth to ninth grade, factors involved with tuition-in students and familiarity with private, parochial and tuition agreement district enrollments.

“We rely heavily on a historical basis especially for students from eighth to ninth grade,” Monson said. “We gain about 58 students in that grade alone and that’s based on a five- or six-year history. Another thing that is pretty key with projections is how many kindergartners are going to come into school each year.”

The district’s kindergarten projection is based on an average for the last six years. Despite rising births in Lyon County and Marshall, Monson said MPS is using 182 for incoming kindergarten students in the future.

“We’re seeing increases in births in Lyon County,” he said. “We, on average, capture about 50 percent of the students born in Lyon County and about 86 percent of the students that are born in the 56258 ZIP code. Those are good rates and something I found interesting.”

The district is also basing its projections on grade progression based on a six-year history.

“We’re gaining students in different grades,” he said. “The net increase of that grade projection in the last six years is 68 students. That’s a positive thing. Not a lot of districts are able to have that kind of data.”

Marshall’s conservative 2023-24 projection for student enrollment is 2,671, which is 46 students higher than Reinhardt’s lowest estimate.

“When you factor all this in and look to the future, we’re looking at the potential of having almost 2,700 students in 2023-24,” Monson said. “That’s kind of the number we’ve shared the past few years. It’s conservative — this is the lowest amount of all of the models — and based on a lot of different things.”

While projecting student enrollment can be somewhat difficult, Monson said the district is using everything available to them.

We really try to look at as many variables as we can,” he said. “They say (projection) is a little bit of science, a little bit of art and a little bit of luck. I think it’s also based on using common sense. We can’t ignore the fact that enrollment has went up 382 students or almost 18 percent in the last nine years. When we look forward to the 2023-24 school year, we have a low projection of almost a 9 percent increase all the way up to a higher 21-plus percent increase.”

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