The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board comments on the hundreds of thousands of kids who seem to have disappeared, following the covid school shutdowns:
An analysis released recently by Stanford University, in collaboration with the Associated Press, finds that K-12 public-school enrollment declined by 1.2 million in the first two years of the pandemic. About two-thirds of the decline can be explained by increasing private-school enrollment, home-schooling, or population changes at the national and local level.
That’s great. The fewer kids in public schools, the better. But the numbers don’t add up:
Home-schooling and private-school data aren’t available for all states. But in the 21 states (plus Washington, D.C.) for which all school enrollment and population data are available, the study finds that 240,133 students who left public schools can’t be accounted for. In California, public-school enrollment fell 270,928, but more than half can’t be explained by these other factors.
There might be some illegal home schooling going on in some states. But the more likely explanation is that kids have simply dropped out:
More worrisome would be if many children decided that going to school is a waste, perhaps because they weren’t learning much. If many stopped going to school altogether, then the pandemic learning loss may be even greater than has been reported and may never be made up.
We know that when schools went remote, a large percentage of students–probably something like 30 percent, nationwide–simply didn’t participate. They didn’t log on, didn’t complete assignments, didn’t take tests. It is plausible that, having gone for a year and half without school, hundreds of thousands decided there was no need to resume their “studies.” The Journal’s editors conclude:
More evidence that school closures were an historic and tragic policy blunder.