Enrollment data shows more of the same

The 2017-18 public school certified enrollment tables are on the Iowa Department of Education’s website, but currently only accessible via magic. Fortunately, in this case, I have a magician’s touch. There are no big surprises, but a few small ones, likely brought on by the small sizes involved.

  • Overall, the state ticked 0.03% upward in enrollment, and at 486,264.3 is the highest since 2002-03. But if you throw out the top three gainers — Waukee, Ankeny, and Iowa City — the rest of the state combined for a 0.22% drop.
  • Of 333 independent districts, 24 declined by more than 5 percent, 162 showed a decrease between 1 and 5 percent, 135 grew between 1 and 5 percent, and 15 grew by more than 5 percent.
  • Of the districts with enrollment above 1000, the biggest percentage drops were Red Oak and Union. Numerically, Davenport was the biggest loser, down 256.5. Davenport has lost 1000 students in a decade.
  • Van Meter is the only district with an enrollment under 1000 that increased its number by more than 40 (70.7).
  • Waukee has grown so much that the flood of students isn’t enough to jump out percentage-wise; it “only” grew 5.4%. Numbers-wise, it’s still crushing everyone in sight. Enrollment grew by 572.3, toppling Dubuque as the state’s ninth-largest district with Waterloo next up. This year’s “absorbed this entire district” comparison has multiple options: Logan-Magnolia, East Buchanan, Clayton Ridge, or Cardinal.
  • Gilmore City-Bradgate and Twin Rivers, two tiny districts that shared a high school until 2011, are outliers percentage-wise for most growth and most decline, respectively. The net changes were +28 and -19, but that will cause double-digit swings when their combined enrollment is under 300.
  • Next door to those, West Bend-Mallard (where Twin Rivers is sending grades 7-12, despite only having the flimsiest of shared boundaries) is the next percentage decline outlier. Its 11% decline pushes certified enrollment below 300, a potential trigger for closure of Mallard Elementary.
  • Janesville has benefited enough from being between Waterloo and Waverly that it has the problem of too little class space. This week, on the third try, it finally got a bond issue for a new gym and more classroom space.
  • For the first time in seven years, North Tama didn’t hit an all-time low, but the increase was marginal.

In sum, the suburban districts keep winning and the rural districts keep losing. For more exploration see these two blog posts looking at long-term trends.

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