Madison Metropolitan School District

The Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) has a long history of success in projecting student enrollment resulting from existing residential development. Based on current and recent enrollment patterns with a focus on cohort-survival analysis, modified by trends in the general population and live birth data, this historic approach has produced generally accurate near-term results. The “Wild Card” in these historic projections has been the more unpredictable influence of areas of new residential development, and increasingly, mixed use development.

In response, MMSD leadership sought a refined approach to improving accuracy of projecting long-range student enrollment. To accomplish this, in 2016 the District contracted with Vandewalle & Associates to undertake a study to identify other broad social, demographic and economic characteristics of its attendance areas that could impact the locational decisions of families with school-aged children, and consequently the District’s ability to provide sufficient facility and staff resources over the long-term. This initial report was granted an award for “Innovations in Planning” from the American Planning Association.

In 2019 the report was updated, examining MMSD enrollment through the 2037-2038 school year in five-year intervals, also known as “lustrums.” The projection model calculated current MMSD student enrollment rates for 26 specific residential building forms present in the District, ranging from single-family homes to downtown redevelopment mixed-use buildings. After extensive discussion with municipal planning staff within District and study of applicable land use and developer plans, future development was mapped on more than 300 redevelopment sites and more than 2,000 greenfield sites throughout the District. The “residential typologies” were then applied to each site, and future students were projected based on current District typology student enrollment rates.

Age of current homeowners, current and likely future district demographics, the DOA’s official population projections, and timing of development were also examined based on historic District and Census data and local knowledge, and were factored into the study’s projection scenarios.

From this wide-ranging study emerged a novel methodology that builds on the historic strengths of MMSD’s cohort survival approach with one that reflects the diversifying nature of planned housing types and their unique enrollment signatures, as well as a model that is more predictive for the location and format of new greenfield and redevelopment. Beyond predictive advantages, this new methodology is designed to be easy to update, and could be customized and applied to any District, municipality, or other unit of geography, and will thus remain a useful tool well into the future.