Student population growth flat; pupil placement myth debunked

Lulu, In-Depth Editor

Starting the new school year, one of the first things returning students noticed was the increase in Madison’s population. This was due to the substantial amount of incoming freshmen. The crowded staircases, busy hallways and full classrooms were not the only problems affected by the attendance growth, as the program for student transferring has also been put into question for impacting the size.

The FCPS Student Transfer Program, commonly nicknamed “pupil placing” allows students to attend Madison even if it is not their assigned school. Through a lengthy application process, which takes place from January to April, Fairfax County residents can request for their high-school-aged student to shift from one school to another. This enables students to switch for social or medical reasons, but only if the correct documentation from a professional doctor or therapist is provided. Students are also able to request a transfer in order to switch from the International Baccalaureate program into the Advanced Placement or vice versa.

“There have been often times that parents, family and so forth are not happy with the fact that parents can request student transfer, and what I would want them to understand is that we monitor it carefully,” Clerical Head of student transfer Jill Hendelman said.

After the class of 2020 established themselves as the largest grade in Madison, the pupil placement program quickly came under fire. However, most of the Vienna community members were unaware how strict administration is when authorizing students to switch to Madison. With over two thousand Warhawks, only 126 of them are student transfers, and out of that small percentage, only 28 are freshmen — a number which hardly differs from the other grades — 26 sophomores, 42 juniors and 30 seniors.

“We are able to accept student transfers because we closely monitor the number of students that are requesting to go to, let’s say, Marshall for the International Baccalaureate. So, if we look at our numbers and make an even switch, we can go ahead and accept the holding AP students,” Hendelman said.

With Madison at full capacity, the student transfer program is conservative in the number of applicants allowed to attend Madison. Not only do counselors inspect the transferee’s schedule to make sure they are taking rigorous courses and multiple AP classes every year, but they also supervise the student’s attendance and disciplinary records. If a transfer applicant does not plan to take at least one AP (excluding freshmen year), their request is declined and the student will attend their base school.
Students request to participate in the AP curriculum for a variety of reasons, whether that is personal preference, family expectations, or college interests.

“My mom is a high school teacher, and my dad is a college professor. They both felt that APs were more well known to colleges,” Stephanie Leow (’18) said.
Leow is a pupil placer, who decided to request to transfer at Madison, instead of participating in the IB program at South Lakes High School. In addition to currently taking five AP classes, Leow is involved with multiple after school clubs. Although students cannot apply to Madison for a reason besides the AP program or medical issues, transferees are encouraged to participate in extracurriculars and sports.

“There are many other benefits to going to Madison, such as many of my friends go here. Also, I knew the band program was very good so that had interested me,” Cassidy McKee (’19) said.
Beyond being enrolled in one AP class McKee, a student who pupil placed from Marshall in her freshmen year, is also highly active in the Warhawk band program and has been able to maintain friendships with students she knew in middle school, who also attend Madison.

“[The FCPS student transfer program] is a good program because not every student fits into the AP program or the IB program,” Hendelman said, “It allows students to choose the best for them.”