Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forecasting school enrollment in Los Angeles

LA is looking ahead: Nation’s Second-Largest District Builds Enrollment Forecasting Platform

Los Angeles (Calif.) Unified School District enrolls over 680,000 students, and the Budget Services and Financial Planning office uses enrollment forecasts on which to base resource allocations to schools. This process determines the number of teachers, textbooks, supplies, custodians, nurses, administrators and food service staff at each school campus. Enrollment forecasting has high stakes, but like every other district in the nation, LAUSD has made major financial cutbacks—$1.5 billion between 2008 and 2010. One program on the chopping block in 2009 was Roadshow, an in-person student-enrollment-forecasting review process that cost over $400,000 annually. So LAUSD needed to find a new, cost-effective forecasting review process.


"The answer was an online program. In January 2010, LAUSD launched the Electronic School Forecasting System, known as E-CAST, an Internet-based platform that replaced Roadshow. The in-person review process had consumed 8,700 staff hours, 17,000 reimbursable travel miles for visits to schools and 52,000 paper data collection forms over the six-week review. “Back in 2006, it was pretty clear that it would be helpful to move this process online to make it more efficient without wasting time and expense in the field gathering data,” says Valerie Edwards, chief enrollment analysis coordinator at LAUSD."

"Looking Forward

"After tackling forecast enrollment, LAUSD is now discussing the possibility of adding a school-capacity assessment module to E-CAST to evaluate space and seating capacities. According to Edwards, space use varies in middle and high school classrooms more than elementary classrooms, where students spend the majority of their day with the same teacher.
“We want to use algorithms to figure out utilization and track classroom spaces electronically. LAUSD can use this information to make sure the district is effectively using space and to plan for maintenance and operations,” says Edwards.
It’s essential, as the district has over 13,000 buildings and about 8,000 projects, ranging from moving portable units to building new schools. If everything goes as planned, Edwards says the school-capacity assessment module should be operational in the 2013-2014 school year."

(LA's chief prognosticator is Valerie Edwards, with whom we had the pleasure of working on Boston Public Schools' school choice system...)

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