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How the Pandemic Transformed Public Education

How COVID changed America’s educational system

May 2023

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America’s public schools lost over 1.2 million K-12 students in the first two years of the pandemic.i

Here’s the weird part: We’re not sure where they all went.

Government data on the matter is incomplete, but a recent study by the Urban Institute attempted to piece together what happened.

The research estimated that about 14% of students moved over to private schools. The move to private schools was greatest for kids in grades K-2.ii

The state with the biggest reported surge was Rhode Island, where private school enrollment increased by nearly 32% between 2019 and 2021.iii

It’s estimated that another 26% of kids who left public school switched to homeschooling. An increase in homeschoolers was reported in every state with data available.iv

The state that reported the biggest increase in homeschooling was Massachusetts, where the numbers grew by 68%.v

Another 26% of the missing students can be explained by families that moved during COVID. States like Florida and Texas saw significant population increases, while states like California, Illinois, and New York lost residents.vi

But for about 1/3 of the students who left public schools during the pandemic … we have no idea what happened.

Among the factors that researchers suggest: a growth in unreported homeschooling, a rise in truancy rates, and an increase in the number of families who opted not to send their children to kindergarten.vii

We may never know exactly what happened during the pandemic, but one thing’s for certain … American education will never be the same.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. K-12 enrollment in American public schools fell by over 1.2 million students in the first two years of the pandemic.
  2. Approximately 2/3 of the students who left public schools either moved to private school, switched over to homeschooling, or moved during the pandemic.
  3. The remaining 1/3 is likely due to a rise in unreported homeschooling, truancy, or families opting out of kindergarten.

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SOUND: "Dream" (Sergey Ignatov)  

FOOTAGE:  Pavel Danilyuk (Pexels) // CITED SOURCES AND NEWS OUTLETS ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH AND HAVE NOT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED ANY PORTION OF THIS PRODUCTION.

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