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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Missing: 87,000 students

California's public schools have "lost" 87,000 students, according to an analysis by Thomas Dee, a Stanford professor, and AP. An estimated 152,000 California children went missing when their schools switched to remote education, writes Karen D'Souza on EdSource.

Photo: Cottonbro/Pexels

Some switched to homeschooling (8,431)or private schools (28,000). Others aged out of the K-12, and were replaced by a smaller cohort of young children. But others are . . . ? Nobody knows.

States where students spent the most time in remote learning lost the most students, D'Souza writes. The decline was greatest for kindergartners, who did the worst with Zoom school.

 Most expected they'd be back in public school after the pandemic. “I was expecting them to crowd into kindergarten in fall of 2021 or skip ahead to first grade," says Dee. He "was surprised to see that neither occurred.” 

There are numerous theories on what's happening, writes D'Souza.

Off-the-books homeschooling may account for some of the missing students. Families leaving California for more affordable states may account for others. Entry-level wages are up, encouraging teenagers to choose jobs over school. Anxiety is way up: I suspect some of the missing are holed up in their bedrooms watching TikTok videos.

It's more common for parents to skip kindergarten, AP reports. Some say it's too stressful or too regimented or not a good "fit" for their child.

Nationwide, public school enrollment is down by more than a million students, reports AP's Sharon Lurye. Among the two-thirds of states with credible enrollment data, she writes, private schooling grew nearly 8 percent and homeschooling by more than 25 percent from fall 2019 to fall 2022. There's evidence of "lasting disengagement from public school, as Americans turn to other kinds of schooling."

Many of those enrolled aren't showing up regularly. Chronic absenteeism has fallen a bit but remains much, much higher than before schools closed.

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