Our View: Addressing TCSS enrollment decline

Published 5:39 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2019

If there’s any topic that really gets people talking, it’s our local schools. Just about everyone has an opinion on our education system, whether it be an opinion on a certain school, test scores, guidelines or hiring. Everyone has an opinion on how to “fix” what’s broken and improve graduation rates and test scores.

Of course, the “working” and “broken” pieces of the school system are usually just someone’s opinion. If you asked 100 people, you might get 100 different answers.

All of those opinions are why a discussion at last week’s Troup County School System meeting caught our attention. New Superintendent Brian Shumate started his superintendent report at last week’s work session with a breakdown of the school system’s enrollment, which has slowly declined over the last six years.

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The school system’s enrollment as of May 2019 was 11,999, a decline of just over 650 students since August 2012.

Shumate didn’t point out those figures to be negative or as a cause for concern. As a new superintendent, he wanted to see those numbers to see what’s really happening with the school system’s enrollment.

As he pointed out, there aren’t any opinions in numbers. They are straight facts that can be interpreted many ways, but it’s up to the school system to use those figures moving forward.

“This is a sign of health. This is like the blood pressure of the school district. It’s the first thing we need to take note of,” Shumate said. “Then we get to test scores and graduation rates, but we’ve got to have kids and create a school district where people want to be.”

He’s completely right. A school system has to have students in order to exist, and although the trend of losing students isn’t a major alarm, it does need to start moving the opposite direction.

At some point, the school system either has to level out or start trending the other way.

Of course, the key now is doing some research to determine where all those students are going. Are they moving out of the area, homeschooling or attending a private school?

LaGrange is adding amenities and appears to be slowly growing its population. Shumate is right in believing the school system should also do the same.

A lot of people in the school system work extremely hard every day to come up with new ways to improve the learning environment for our students, and there’s plenty of data to back up what’s working and what’s not working.

In fact, the school system may actually have more measures of success than any other entity, considering the numbers by grade level, all of the different statewide tests and the graduation numbers.

But at the end of the day, enrollment numbers really loom as large as any other data point. We’re sure in time, and with Shumate leading the way, that the slow, downward trend will begin to reverse. Bringing it to everyone’s attention was the first step.