THURSDAY, Nov. 7 — The Lansing School District’s shift toward providing more K-8 facilities played a major role in an enrollment increase this year for the first time in three decades, Superintendent Ben Shuldiner said today.
“What we’ve found is that families really like our elementary schools, they want to stay, but when those schools end, they tend to go to other districts,” he said.
“Well guess what happened? When we increased it from a K-3 to a K-4 and now a K-8, the families stayed. So, instead of seeing a big drop between third and fourth grade, we’re actually seeing an increase.”
Speaking at a news conference, Schuldiner announced that enrollment increased by 136 students, from 9,773 to 9,909, a 1.4% growth. He called the improvement “extraordinary.”
Enrollment is still substantially below from a decade ago, when it topped 12,000 students.
Test scores increased at every grade level as well, he also said.
“Those of you who have lived in the Lansing district long enough know that over the last 30 years, our enrollment has steadily declined. But this year is actually improvement. And we believe that’s because the families know that things are getting better,” Shuldiner said.
Shuldiner added that the district’s next goal is to surpass 11,500 students across its 25 schools by 2025.
He also cited the creation of Lansing Technical High School as a reason for the increase. The career and technological education program in the Lansing’s old Hill High School, 5815 Wise Road, kicked off its inaugural semester this fall.
He said the district also benefited from its universal pre-k program, which is now in its third year.
“We know that if we start education early, students will want to stay, and that’s what happened,” Shuldiner said.
Shuldiner also highlighted the district’s “incredible school index increase,” a measure from 0 to 100 that the State of Michigan calculates for each public school from data on student growth, proficiency, graduation rates, English learner progress, attendance rates, advanced coursework completion, postsecondary enrollment and staffing ratios.
“It even looks at do you have a good percentage of students who get physical education, or access to arts or librarians? All those things create a composite score of different data points that show a true understanding of if a school is doing well or not,” Shuldiner said.
While the numbers haven’t been published yet, Shuldiner is confident in saying Lansing Schools took a big step forward in the school index increase.
“I haven’t seen any other district that will be able to say what we’re saying, which is that our district went up by 66%. Let that sink in,” he said.
He added that within the district, the index doubled or more at some schools.
Shuldiner commended students and staff at Pattengill Biotechnical Magnet School on a one-year school index score that he said improved from 26.48 to 59.09, a 123% increase. Their growth index score, which in Michigan measures student growth in comparison to other students with similar prior test scores, was over 90.
Another vast improvement was seen at Willow Elementary, which improved by 250% from 13.42 to 47.03. Willow also had a high growth index score of 66, with student proficiency scores more than doubling, Shuldiner said.
While the work is far from over, Shuldiner said another big measure of the district’s progress could be seen in the number of schools taken off the state partnership list, which features the state’s lowest-performing schools. Last year, 10 of the district’s 25 facilities were on that list, he said, compared to two this year.
“A year ago, we were honest with the community that our index scores in the Lansing School District were low. We wanted to own the fact that we knew we were not serving our children as well as we wanted to, and we said very specifically the things that we were doing and that, within a year’s time, we wanted to come to look at what we’ve done and assess the work,” Shuldiner said.
Now, with a 66.1% districtwide school index score increase and a 6% rise in overall attendance rates, Shuldiner feels the district is on the right path.
“Families are now seeing the things that we have to offer, and our enrollment is going up, which is extraordinary,” he said.
He closed the press conference with an appeal to families who may still question the district’s ability to best equip their children for sustainable success.
“There are 6,000 families who live in the Lansing School District who choose to send their children somewhere else,” he explained, adding that he sees and hears their concerns.
“But not today. Today is the day you come back. Like the prodigal son in Luke, the idea is you went out, you saw the world,” he said. “Now’s the time to bring them back home. Be a part of this success story. Be part of what’s going on, because you have these incredible educators here, and you have incredible people that care about you. We can’t do this alone.”
Afterward, Shuldiner outlined his time with the district, and why he thought things were trending upwards.
“The first year was COVID, and the second year was fixing the systems and the structures. This third year, it’s all about instruction,” he said. “The question we’re asking is: How do you get the right curriculum in the hands of good teachers and then train and support the teachers who do the good work?”
“It’s through our laser focus on student achievement, that’s how we move the district forward,” he said.
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