W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA, is part of the Fairfax County Public Schools. Architect: Architecture, Incorporated. Photo: David Galen
Asumag 956 201409 Asu100
Asumag 956 201409 Asu100
Asumag 956 201409 Asu100
Asumag 956 201409 Asu100
Asumag 956 201409 Asu100

The 2014 AS&U 100

Sept. 1, 2014
Schools in some former metropolises have faded remarkably in the last quarter century, while other districts flourish in unlikely places.

2014 AS&U 100 charts:

Urban school districts continue efforts to stabilize student enrollment, as charter schools and suburban school districts increasingly serve as alluring alternatives to parents seeking the best education possible for their kids.

But no district has struggled with student loss more than Detroit, where enrollment has dropped precipitously over the years.

So dramatic is the change that it’s hard to reconcile the enrollment figures: Just 25 years ago, Detroit was the seventh largest district in the country. For the 2012-2013 school year, it was the 91st largest – and that’s after taking a tumble from the 55th spot the year prior.

District officials are trying to flip the script, though, and they’re already showing some success. Tired of hemorrhaging students every year and losing the funding tied to each departing student, the district launched a student retention campaign.

With the help of marketing slogans, a door-to-door campaign involving principals, teachers, parents and students, and other efforts to rebuild relationships between the individual schools and the community, the district was able to slow the exodus in the 2013-2014 school year to a 1.8 percent enrollment loss.

Meanwhile, the suburban areas that are welcoming these displaced urban students wrestle with the growing pains that come with enrollment bursts. The Gwinnett County, Ga., system, for example, has swelled nearly 200 percent over the last 25 years as students left Atlanta Public Schools (APS has seen about a 26 percent drop during that same time).

Other significant growth districts are Alpine, Utah; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; Denver, Co.; Garden Grove Unified, Calif.; Jefferson County, Ky.; Katy, Texas; Loudoun County, Va.; Omaha, Neb.; and Pasco County, Fla. All of these districts experienced at least 3 percent growth from 2011-2012 to 2012-13.

Also, not all urban districts are fighting to retain and attract students. Jefferson County, Ky., which is home to Louisville, was the biggest gainer among the largest 100 schools in 2012-2013. Meanwhile, Houston’s student enrollment is holding steady even while neighboring Cypress-Fairbanks sees explosive growth, and Douglas County, Co., is thriving while its larger neighbor Denver is experiencing its own enrollment gains.

A Note on Methodology

2012-13 enrollment data was sourced directly from school districts when possible, but in some cases uses city, county, and state education department figures when district figures were not made available. 2011-12 enrollment data is from last year’s edition of the AS&U 100. Data regarding the 1987-88 school year also came from NCES. District population data is based on U.S. Census projections. Due to slight variations in methodology between this year’s listing and last year’s, some year-over-year data may be subject to interpretation.

Data in the higher education ranking is derived from NCES statistics.

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