Public school enrollment in 2020-21 fell by 3% compared to the previous year, marking the largest decline since the start of this century, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.
As anticipated, the declines were mostly concentrated in pre-k, which saw a 22% decrease, and kindergarten, which experienced a 9% dip. Changes also differed by grade groupings, with a 13% decrease in pre-K and kindergarten, a 3% decrease in grades 1-8, and a slight increase of 0.4% in grades 9-12.
Until now, K-12 enrollment had been slowly increasing almost every year since the start of the century. NCES states that changes had been small in the few recent years with enrollment decreases representing less than 1% of total enrollment.