By Diana Whittle
Photo by Billy Hardiman
School choice allows parents the freedom to
select the best learning environment for their
It also may be one reason behind an enrollment
drop in the Kyrene district as more parents opt to
send students to charter or private schools, said
Dr. Gina Taylor, assistant superintendent, during a
presentation to the governing board.
In grades K-5, enrollment dropped 87 students
for a total of 11,043 in 2013. A more significant drop
was shown in grades 6-8, which fell 420 students for
an enrollment total of 17,149 in 2013.
While not a significant number overall, the
enrollment decline does concern some board
Michelle Hirsch was Kyrene’s board president
during the study period and said she would like more
analysis of this data to learn “the whys” behind the
drop in enrollment.
“We have great student achievement in Kyrene—
the district just earned an overall A rating by the
Arizona Department of Education—so we need to
focus our efforts on learning from families why they
are choosing other educational options.”
Kyrene is not alone. Overall K-12 enrollment
has declined for schools all over the state—Tempe
Elementary lost approximately 1,300 students over
the past decade.
Completing informal surveys is one technique
Kyrene uses to understand the reasons behind
families leaving the district.
“Sometimes, families need to move away from
the district, which is understandable. But we want
to know if there are programs or other changes that
the district needs to address,” said Kelly Alexander,
director of community education and outreach
“We plan to use exit interviews more often, if
possible. And, more analysis is taking place of our
enrollment numbers and the many variables and
factors that affect it.”
Faced with more competition for students and
the state funding that comes with enrollment, many
districts also create a marketing plan. Kyrene has
used marketing techniques in the past, such as ads
in publications, direct mail, school tours, community
meetings, the district Website and social media.
“We’ve even served as a campaign sponsor on the
PBS station Channel 8, which allowed us to get out
Kyrene’s message,” said Alexander.
But the enrollment change may spark an even
more pro-active approach.
“We are in the midst of reviewing our marketing
plan to boost outreach efforts to reach prospective
families,” said Alexander.
Even with the shifts in enrollment, Kyrene still
has a great story to tell, she says.
“We plan to focus on some key points of pride for
the district as we continue our marketing across the
According to the district, these include:
• AIMS scores that exceed the state average in
reading, science and math;
• A fully implemented Common Core curriculum
to increase college and career readiness;
• A well-rounded education that includes art,
music, library and P.E.;
• Dual language, leadership and Traditional
Academy offerings; and
• Middle-school electives in Spanish, fine arts,
multi-media, theater, band, chorus and orchestra.