For example, at the Zoning Meetings last year, administration stated that 316 students would be affected by zoning Heritage Colony, Lake Colony, and Riverstone neighborhoods zoned to Austin Parkway Elementary from Clements High School (CHS) to Elkins High School (EHS). You may recall that administration student enrollment projections for EHS in the 2011/2012 school year would be 2,251. But the actual enrollment as of September 9, 2011 was 2,008 students—a decrease of 10%. What happened? Wasn’t the zoning supposed to increase the student population at EHS even when accounting for grandfathering of juniors and seniors at CHS?
To answer this question, I started with the 316 students zoned from CHS to EHS. Where did they go? After multiple rounds of Open Records Requests, administration eventually completed my request and I came to my own conclusions.
Regarding grandfathering, it’s important to note that administration’s projections assumed that all incoming 11th and 12th graders took that option. They were almost right—of the 152 eligible students, 136 of them stayed at CHS while the remaining 16 students went to EHS.
Regarding changes in the resident population, shown below is a table provided by the administration.
Naturally you will have student migration in and out of a zoned area as indicated in the table above. However, in this case note how many of the affected students either moved into another FBISD area (26 students, with 24 of them to CHS) or withdrew from the district (23 students). In my opinion this disparity is a direct result of the High School Zoning Plan approved at the March 7 board meeting. Also, note that none of the 26 students that moved out of the area attend academies.
Now let’s look at how many students in the resident population enrolled in academies based on information provided by the administration.
Out of the incoming 9th and 10th graders, 31 students enrolled in academies. Of course I’m assuming these students would’ve stayed at CHS if they had not been rezoned. Moreover, apparently the six 11th and 12th grade students that enrolled at Hightower elected to go there rather than go to EHS.
Out of the 316 students, 136 were grandfathered, 49 students withdrew or moved into another FBISD area, and 37 enrolled in academies. Only 94 students chose to go to EHS, about half of the 180 students that administration assumed would go to EHS. These outcomes are the traps that static analysis lays for those who use it. In this case, the miscalculation is so obvious that it’s questionable whether we should blame static analysis at all, or just the bureaucratic indifference of people who have no familiarity of how parents and students will react to rezoning when given other options. In their analysis the administration may view students simply as pawns on a chess board, but these pawns (and their parents) have brains and legs.
Yet, the reaction to rezoning still does not account for why EHS’s population is decreasing. This paradox is where the academies and student transfer policy play a role on high school enrollment. I therefore made a second Open Records Request and asked how many students zoned to EHS attend academies, and how many students transferred to another school. The answer confirmed why it’s difficult to project high school enrollment given the existence of academies and the student transfer policy currently in place —211 students zoned to EHS enrolled in academies outside of EHS (57 of them enrolled in the GLA academy at CHS) while 73 students transferred to another high school. I also asked what high schools the students transferred to, and received the following response:
“The information is not readily available and will have to be accessed from different programs and then formatted in the way you requested. Please stop in to make the payment so we may proceed with your request, or if you feel that the cost exceeds your allowable expense you may email me and amend or cancel your request.”
Total estimate–$223.20. No thank you. I see no reason why such information should not already be readily available.
Zoning is a difficult task. Attendance boundaries must be properly established, and subsequently adhered to for projections to be reasonably accurate, and for achieving the best use of building resources. Otherwise, options like academies and liberal transfer policies will enable parents to send students to schools other than their zoned school, thus undermining the entire process.