Count Day: The School System’s Worst Holiday


By Andrew Pillow

“Count day” is upon us. You may not have heard of it, but it has become something of a holiday among educators in districts strapped for cash. You see count day is the day on which roll is taken at a school. The number of students on the roster at that point, will be the number that the district uses to dole out funding.

You see money for schools is distributed via headcount. For example, in Indiana each student is entitled to around $6,000 for education. That money is distributed directly to the school based on the total number of students on the roster at a certain point. Most schools plan their budgets under the assumption that they will be enrolled to capacity. Therefore, being under-enrolled is more than just disappointing for a school… in some cases it’s financially crippling.

Thus, you get informal holidays like count day.

Count day isn’t necessarily a one-day event. It’s more like a season, and it’s decidedly not the most “wonderful time of the year”. Count season is marked by stress and frequently extra work and strain for school staff.

During count season, school discipline is not a priority for cash strapped schools. Schools don’t want to alienate families before count day. Lest they pull their kids before you can secure the funding for them.

During count season, you may be tapped to walk around neighborhoods creepily recruiting kids off the street to attend your school if your school is under enrolled.

Things don’t get a whole lot better after count day either. You see one of the only positives about funding by headcount is that it forces schools to compete for kids. However, that is only the case until count day.

Just like Christmas, Thanksgiving or any other holiday, the day after count day marks the start of a huge sell. Only this time it’s a sell on children. That’s right. Your school couldn’t buy students before but now other schools are just giving them away.

Suspensions, expulsions, and “voluntary withdrawals” all come after count day.

The best part: Pretty much every student you get after count day has left their previous school for one of the above reasons. For those of you that like the excitement of integrating challenging students into an already established culture this is quite fun. For the rest of us not so much. Especially when you consider the fact that it will probably happen two or three more times before the years end.

I can go on and on about the wonders of count season. I haven’t even touched on the count day carols or count day decorations. But I digress, and leave you with this: Merry count day! (Or is it happy count day?)



Andrew Pillow

Andrew is a technology teacher at KIPP Indy College Prep. He is graduate of the University of Kentucky and a Teach for America Alum. Andrew just recently finished his commitment as a Teach Plus Policy fellow, and he is looking forward to putting the skills he's learned to good use. Andrew has written for several publications in the past on a wide variety of topics but will be sticking to education for his role on Indy/Ed.