Major frustrations and other factors tied to the pandemic have led to a drop in the number of kids enrolled in Maryland schools at the moment. In addition, those kids enrolled are skipping out on classes for various reasons including fights as seen in PGCPS situation.
Two years ago, the state had 909,414 students enrolled in public schools, and over 132,620 students enrolled in private schools. Those numbers plummeted last year, with the number of home-schooled kids shooting up.
This year, public school enrollment fell by about another thousand kids, to just under 881,500 students.
It’s unclear how many students are enrolled in private schools this year.
“Pretty much nearly every grade except the high school grades saw a dip from pre-pandemic to the 2021 school year,” said Chandra Haislet, the director of accountability and data for the Maryland Department of Education.
“But if we look at the fall, what we’re seeing is … a pretty large uptick in Grade 9 as well as an uptick in students in pre-K and kindergarten, so we are starting to see the younger grades coming back and we’re seeing the 9th graders coming back.”
Another concerning trend is the increase in “chronic absenteeism,” which is students missing more than 10% of class time.
“More students are missing out on instruction after many fell behind last year,” Haislet said.
“Low-income students are 1.6 times more likely to be missing multiple days of school than their high-income peers,” she said, according to national data.
She said the concern with those numbers stems from “historical links” between chronic absenteeism and eventual graduation rates.
Haislet warned that “1.7 million to 3.3 million 8th-12th grade students could drop out of school due to the pandemic without coordinated efforts to reengage them with learning.”
State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury said students racking up unexcused absences signify something bigger and more worrisome. Although he did not mention those factors, those who monitor worry about uncontrolled fights and other issues including public corruption within the school system.
“Every unexcused absence is something we don’t know that happened in that kid’s life,” he said.
He said unexcused absences could be transportation issues or something more traumatic, though in general it’s not information school leaders seek out.