A previous blog post explored the enrollment increases we have been observing in online schools and courses. Increases in students attending online schools are often in the range of 40%, while state virtual schools have seen an uptick in course enrollments stretching from about 30% to 300%.
We’ve also been interested in understanding what is happening from the traditional school district perspective. Are their student enrollments down? If so, by how much?
National Public Radio has an answer:
“Orange County, Fla., has 8,000 missing students. The Miami-Dade County public schools have 16,000 fewer than last year. Los Angeles Unified — the nation’s second-largest school system — is down nearly 11,000. Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina has 5,000 missing. Utah, Virginia and Washington are reporting declines statewide.
Comprehensive national data aren’t available yet, but reporting by NPR and our member stations, along with media reports from around the country, shows enrollment declines in dozens of school districts across 20 states. Large and small, rich and poor, urban and rural — in most of these districts the decline is a departure from recent trends.”
These enrollment reductions tend to be around 2% – 5% off the previous year’s student count. This decline is not the same across all grade levels, however. Although many districts are seeing some reduction in enrollments of all student ages, kindergarten declines are driving much of the overall number. NPR’s report goes on to explain:
“In many places, the enrollment drops are especially noticeable in kindergarten and pre-K. For our reporting, we reached out to more than 100 districts and heard back from more than 60. In our sample, the average kindergarten enrollment drop was 16%.”
In another example from the same story, Washington State reported a 14% drop in kindergarten enrollment from districts across the state.
The common explanation is that remote learning isn’t working well for the youngest students. But further analysis suggests that something else may be going on as well, for two reasons.