Digital Learning and Up Charter Schools; Catholic school enrollment declines

Rockville, Md., July 26, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — After a year and a half of disruptive learning, nearly 100% of Prek-12 students returned to school full-time in the third quarter of 2021.

This is one of the conclusions of the SIMBA report which has just been published. PreK-12 Enrollment and Demographics 2022-2023, which examines data, trends, and perspectives of students enrolled in public and private schools in the United States. In addition to broader demographic and enrollment trends, the report identifies the impact of COVID on enrollment and other key factors.

For example, digital and online learning, which has exploded during the pandemic, continues to grow and play a major role in American schools, and pushes the federal government to ensure uninterrupted internet connections. The FCC is pushing for a bandwidth goal of 1 Mbps per student; by the end of 2021, 59% of districts or 18.8 million students and 7,675 school districts have met or exceeded this goal. This emphasis on online and digital learning also necessitates a corresponding increase in the availability and use of digital learning materials.

The report also identifies the total number of students and schools enrolled. In the 2020-2021 school year, there were 19,254 public school districts and 98,609 public schools. California has the highest number with 10,328 public schools, followed by Texas with 9,002 then New York with 4,807. Enrollment in public primary and secondary schools increased from 47.2 million in 2020 to 50.6 million in 2021, an increase of 7.3%. This growth has been spurred by rising birth rates, immigration and expanding access to pre-kindergarten. The report also reveals that total public school enrollment is expected to grow at a slower pace through fall 2030.

The evolution of enrollments in certain types of schools is also examined. For example, homeschooling, charter schools, and virtual schools have all reported increased enrollment during the pandemic. Charter schools, in particular, continue to grow rapidly: in 2020-2021, there were 7,644 charter schools serving 3.5 million students; in 2019–20, there were 7,547 charter schools serving 3.4 million students. This increase is a continuation of a larger trend: in 2000, there were 1,993 charter schools serving only 448,000 students.

Overall, although enrollment in private schools fell from a total of 11.6% of students in 2000 to 10.1% in 2019 (representing 5.7 million students; remaining the same number than in 2018). Other trends include declining enrollment in Catholic schools and growing support for the notion of school choice.

Simba’s new report also identifies other important trends for those serving the education market. For example, the study found that the growth of ELL (English Language Learners) increased with 5.1 million students in the 2019-2020 school year. Overall graduation rates have also increased recently.

Some negative trends are also highlighted in the report. One is the dropout or dropout problem, notably highest in preschool and kindergarten, which has created serious lasting fiscal consequences for schools. The report also notes that efforts to provide a universal PreK are progressing slowly, declining from 2019-20 to 2020-21 in nearly every state. In addition, socioeconomic gaps widened, as students who lacked access to computers, reliable connectivity, and productive instruction fell further behind their better-located classmates. The report notes that these factors could drive the market for products that can bridge learning gaps and meet standards across multiple grade levels as traditional schooling resumes.

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