Our view: Avoid paralysis by analysis | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Avoid paralysis by analysis

At issue:

The Community Committee for Education wants a second demographics report as it develops recommendations for the future of the Steamboat Springs School District.

Our view:

The cost of the second report is a small price to pay if it will enable CC4E to move forward with confidence.

In its ongoing work to develop recommendations for the future of the Steamboat Springs School District, the Community Committee for Education, or CC4E, voted Tuesday to seek a new study to revisit findings of a 2014 demographics report, which was prepared by Western Demographics and used as a basis for last year’s failed school facilities bond issue.

Though the Colorado demography office reviewed the 2014 report in June and, initially, found its methodology to be sound, a representative in the office later noted the positive assessment was based on the assumption that the cohort survival method had been used to predict kindergarten enrollment, when, in fact, the straight line method had been used.

At first glance, this might seem a trifling distinction, but the two methods base their predictions on different growth gauges; the straight line method uses past enrollment numbers to project future class sizes, while the survival cohort method bases these projections on local birth rates. Depending on which method is used, projections can vary significantly.

Both methods come with pros and cons, and while there is no such thing as perfect demographic data — particularly in a resort community such as Steamboat, where populations numbers often work similar to a revolving door — we think it’s important for both CC4E and district leaders to have the best, most complete data possible as they work toward developing a strategy for future school growth.

For that reason, we support CC4E’s desire to pursue an updated report, and we believe the school board would be wise to approve the expense.

Our support, however, comes with a couple of caveats.

First, we think the demographer should present his findings in person, which would allow for questions from committee members and school leaders and lessen the potential for misinterpretation.

And second, we would encourage both CC4E and district officials to resolve to accept the findings of the new study as valid and use those findings to move forward on this vitally important issue.

We understand the desire to have the best data available, but dealing with complex, potentially divisive issues often comes with the danger of paralysis by analysis, and our school facilities needs are far too important for CC4E to allow itself to become stuck in a perpetual holding pattern.

So, we support CC4E’s wish to commission a second demographic study. By all means, let’s get the best information we can get. But at the same time, let’s understand that, if we wait for “perfect” data, we’ll be waiting for a long time.

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