Student retention in the nation’s largest public school system increased slightly since the pandemic began, but data suggests that enrollment of new students, particularly among younger students, has dropped, according to a report released Tuesday.
Retention in New York City varied widely by grade, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office, with the study finding more evidence of an alarming national trend: declining enrollment in younger grades.
Data from last fall showed that enrollment in city schools fell by around 50,000 between the fall of 2019 and the end of 2021. There are roughly one million children in the city’s 1,600 public schools.
Retention rates for prekindergarten students fell across all demographics, the new report showed, but particularly for the city’s least vulnerable students: white, higher-income children who did not have disabilities and for whom English was their first language.
Hispanic and Black students, low-income students, and students in temporary housing showed higher retention rates, particularly in high schools.
The report, broken down by race, found that white students experienced the greatest decline in retention from prekindergarten to third grade, with a rate of more than four percentage point lower than the previous year.
The report, which compared enrollment data from students who returned to school for the 2020-21 school year with those who returned the year before, foreshadows challenges for Mayor Eric Adams’s administration, since the city’s education budget hinges on how many students are enrolled in its school system.
According to the report the primary reason for the drop in total enrollment is the lower number of students enrolling. This could indicate a larger problem the system will face in future. In all grades, the proportion of newly enrolled students decreased, especially in the early grades, and in ninth grade, where it dropped to 5.9 per cent from 9.3 percent.
Apart from the higher rate of Black prekindergarten students returning to school for kindergarten, Black students returned at a higher rate than the previous year. Hispanic students were enrolled in the same way until high school. The retention rates were higher after the pandemic. The retention rates for Asian American students remained stable.
The report also showed that students from families with higher incomes saw a significant decline in enrollment from prekindergarten through kindergarten and other early elementary school grades. Low-income students saw the greatest increase in enrollment, despite an overall increase in high school students.
Source: NY Times