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Michigan lost 62,000 students this fall, thousands more than estimated

Koby Levin, Chalkbeat |

Michigan lost 61,940 K-12 students last fall, more than the state previously estimated. That figure underscores the toll the past year has taken on students and adds urgency to early efforts to provide students with extra academic and emotional support.

Michigan’s public school enrollment decline is among the best barometers of the pandemic’s impact on students. Behind the numbers are students who may have abruptly moved to a new school, or whose education simply came to a halt. “Where are the kids that are MIA?” asked Paul Liabenow, director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association. “We need to seek them out. … We need to find a way to provide the support to families so the students can come to school.”

Over the last decade, Michigan has lost an average of 13,000 students per year. This year, though, the state lost nearly five times as many. The 4.1% decline in enrollment is the largest by far since at least the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

The trend in Michigan — as in much of the country — is driven partly by kindergarten, where enrollment fell by 13,000, more than twice as much as any other grade. Many families decided to keep young children at home rather than attempt to navigate Zoom education with a 5-year-old.

But the declines were not limited to kindergarten. Enrollment in certain categories fell more steeply than overall enrollment, notably among white well-off students, as well as students who are African-American, or from low-income families.

  • Black enrollment fell by 13,700, a 5.1% decline.
  • Enrollment of students from low-income families fell by 34,400, or 4.5%.
  • Native American enrollment fell by 496, or 5.5%.
  • Enrollment of white, well-off students declined by 25,000, or 4.4%.

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