It’s obvious the COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped K-12 enrollment. But how? Emerging data show impacts for North Carolina, and in some surprising ways.
A new brief from the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (EPIC), by Sarah Crittenden Fuller and Kevin Bastian, shows traditional public schools have been hardest-hit. Other sectors, including charter schools and home schools, experienced growth between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Some key findings:
- Traditional public school enrollment dropped by 2.5%, or around 35,000 students.
- Charter school enrollment increased by 9%, or almost 10,000 students.
- Home school enrollment grew by nearly 19,000 students.
Enrollment declines were highest in kindergarten. Urban school districts lost more students, as did areas with more affluent and white students. Schools with higher report card grades also experienced larger enrollment declines.
Here’s a deeper dive from the EPIC authors, about charters specifically:
For existing charter schools and grades, enrollment changes were relatively constant (between 2.5 and 3.3 percent) for the previous school years but increased to 4.8 percent for 2020–21. These data reveal that increases in charter school enrollment are due to both increased enrollment in existing charter schools/grades and the opening of new charter schools.
Findings on charter enrollments affirm data just out from the state’s draft annual charter school report. That report shows charter enrollment increased from 117,000 students in 2019-20 to over 126,000 students in 2020-21. Charters experienced enrollment growth at every grade level. An additional 76,000 students are on charter waitlists.
Interested in percent enrollment changes over time? This screenshot from the EPIC report captures shifts by K-12 sector:
Read an EdNC perspective from the EPIC report authors here.