SVSD High School Class Attrition Rate: The Missing Piece In The Enrollment Projections?

If you look at SVSD enrollment projections contained in past yearly Capital Facility Plans (CFP), you will notice more often than not, 6-year high school enrollment projections have been high compared to reality. They’re especially high when the predictions go 4-6 years into the future.  Once the projections are looking ahead just one year, they get closer to reality, but historically are still on the high side.

These CFP enrollment projections are different than those used to create the district’s yearly operating budget. The CFP enrollment numbers are more aggressive than the conservative budgetary ones; the rationale being it’s easier to hire a teacher at the last minute than it is to build a school.

The question remains, should CFP enrollment numbers be more conservative since they are used to determine the timing of school bonds?  If the projections are too high, do they contradict a construction bond’s timing and give voters a reason to vote no?

When actual SVSD high school enrollment numbers were released during the 2011 bond, they were lower than the projections in bond promotional literature.  As a result, the legitimacy of the projections came under fire.  The 2013 timeline was questioned.  The bond failed by one vote the first time; by even more the second time.

I did some digging; looking for clues as to why SVSD high school enrollment projections historically come in high; attempting to find a piece of the puzzle Calm River Demography (SVSD demographer) might be missing.  What I found was a higher than accounted for class attrition rate, or the shrinkage of high school graduating classes from freshman year to senior year.  That attrition rate is a result of multiple factors, including transfers, move-outs, Running Start, online school, home school and dropouts.  This is NOT simply a dropout rate.

10 yr Historical High School Graduating Class Size: Freshman-Senior Year

For the past 10 years, high school graduating classes have shrunk an average of 13.3% between freshman and senior year; or 4.4% per year.  The lowest levels were the classes of 2004 and 2005 – with a 1.9% and 4.8% total decrease.  Since then all graduating classes have decreased between 12 – 19% moving from freshman to senior year.  This year’s junior class alone has already shrunk 19% – even before its senior year head count.

In contrast, looking at Calm River Demography’s 10-year enrollment projections for the class of 2014 through the class of 2023, the same 3-year attrition rate is only 3.4% – or 1.15% per year.  That’s about a 10% spread between the actual, historical data and the predictions. Light bulb moment.  Could this be the missing link?  What does future high school enrollment look like if you apply the historical attrition rate?  Could it be MSHS doesn’t reach capacity until 2015, instead of the predicted 2013?

Some might say those two years won’t make a huge difference, citing that eventually MSHS will be over capacity and something needs to be done.  Point duly noted.  It’s important to remember, though, that the committee recommending the SMS annexation worked with high school enrollment predictions of 2,063 – 2,121 students in the year 2013; since then those projections have shrunk by 16% – 18%,  down to 1,733 students.  And coincidentally, the last five Capital Facilities Plan’s high school enrollment projections have been over-projected, on average, by 4.9% when looking ahead two years; almost identical to the 4.4% attrition rate.

What if those extra two years are the “gift of time” needed to replace SMS for 500 Snoqualmie Middle School students and keep the 3 middle school educational model “mojo” going?  Two years could give SVSD time to implement an over-crowding solution better than a band-aid of portables and more busing; time to solve the problem in a way that’s best for all students.

There’s your food for thought today, Snoqualmie Valley.

Comments are closed.


  • Great info Danna. Thank you for your research. I would also love to see some information regarding WHY these students are leaving. Are families moving out of the Valley after their students enter MSHS because of something lacking with our HS? These are HIGH percentages, and I would think it would be very useful to the district to find out why these students are leaving. Thanks!!

  • Postponing the annexation for two years will only embolden the 40.01% minority who want to defeat every bond that comes along, two of whom have unfortunately made it onto the school board. I really hope the annexation proceeds as planned so that the voters of this district come to their senses and finally vote for the new school(s) we so obviously need.

    1. I understand how you feel Doug… and according to the 2011 Capital Facilities Plan the district wants to replace SMS in 2015 – which would mean another bond soon – like next year. If that is the timeline and MSHS can made it 2 extra years why spend money on portables and busing for just two years? That’s a lot of money and risk to middle school education for just two years. My fear is that portables is the near/long-term solution. I don’t want to see this in place for 4-5 years. I am hoping the district will tell us soon what the future looks like for bonds. That would clarify a lot of issues. I think Carolyn and Geoff’s addition to the board is a good thing… adds to lots of good discussion with lots of different viewpoints shared.

  • Let’s not lose sight of the fact that small class size is a predominant factor in student academic performance…meaning the importance of the number of good teachers that enable lower student-to-teacher ratios. Teachers teach kids, not empty classrooms. Those of us who have visited Issaquah HS for the number of years before their recent remodel bond passed know that a large percentage of their students were in portables…and yet Issaquah had better academic outcomes, lower drop-outs & “attrition” than SVSD during that time. In part that’s because ISD has a strategic focus on reducing class size despite the resistance of their taxpayers to pass construction bonds.

    I just ran into a Snoqualmie friend this afternoon while in Seattle whose girls were in private and SVSD elementary schools with my son. Inquiring how her girls are doing I learned that they are attending EC (along with a number of other North Bend kids I know who went through some of our ESs). EC has smaller class sizes, and for those SVSD residents who can afford it they want their kids to receive the benefits of such smaller class schools.

    There are also a number of kids no longer attending SVSD schools because of safety issues (bullying, harassment, assaults, etc). A certain amount of the “why” that a poster here wonders about is related to inadequate student safety, and it spans elementary through high school.

    Too many of our kids are not being reached and engaged into learning, and they either begin failing and drop out, move to a better school district, or are placed in private elementary, middle, and high schools nearby. However, I remain optimistic that SVSD will improve their performance, lower student attrition, improve student safety and increase operating efficiency to a level more acceptable to taxpayers here, and I continue personally to press for progress to that end. I’m encouraged by the noticeable change in the behavior and perspective of our school board since it’s “upgrade” that promises to result in the district’s first strategic business plan, a revised capital facilities plan, and sensible construction bonds that are more acceptable to voters in the future. Don’t lose faith!

  • Living Snoqualmie