School enrollment numbers grim, state superintendent lays out future plans

The Ohio Department of Education is still watching the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic affect the children of the state. Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens had to deliver some grim realities last month to a Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee eager to learn about what the next steps will be for school districts.

“Across the country, there is a real and urgent need to embrace new and innovative ways to accelerate learning,” Siddens said.

Siddens said expected decreases happened in enrollment and state test scores between the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years, with participation in state tests reduced in areas with “vulnerable” students.

As expected by state officials, total enrollment for pre-K through 12th grades was down 3%, equivalent to 53,000 students. Almost half of those 53,000 were in pre-school and kindergarten-aged students.

The early-education decreases were the result of delayed enrollment by parents and other educational alternatives chosen during the pandemic, according to Siddens.

The number of students being home-schooled increased as well, up 25% between the 19-20 and 20-21 school year.

Of more concern to Siddens and the ODE is the rise in “chronically absent” students.

“Almost 1,000 schools had more than 30% of their students chronically absent,” Siddens said.


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