Remote School Districts Saw Larger Enrollment Declines, Report Finds

by Reagan Reese


School districts that stayed remote as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic saw larger drops in their enrollment compared to in-person school districts, according to a Monday report by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

During the 2021-2022 school year, remote learning school districts lost at least half a million more students than school districts that returned to in-person learning, according to a report by AEI. Remote school districts’ enrollment dropped 1.3% more than school districts that were in-person 90% of the year.

“These findings suggest that districts’ responses to the pandemic substantially influenced enrollment losses,” the AEI report stated. “Parents can—and do—make enrollment decisions based on the learning modality of their child’s district. The grade-level analysis suggests that parents are much freer to make enrollment changes when students are in younger grades. This is most likely because remote instruction carries larger burdens for families with younger children, and work and other commitments may have driven parents to search for in-person alternatives.”

Schools that returned to in-person learning were able to recover their enrollment losses better than remote school districts, which suffered a larger decline in enrollment during the 2021-2022 school year, according to the AEI report. The pandemic accelerated enrollment declines that city-based school districts were seeing prior to the pandemic.

Remote learning also caused students’ academic achievement to suffer; remote school districts saw students’ academic performance suffer at least 20% more than districts that returned to in-person learning. School districts that were remote through the 2020-2021 school year experienced a 41% larger achievement loss in math.

Since 2019, every state saw a decline in math scores while fourth- and eighth-grade students recorded their largest-ever declines in math scores. Reading scores have dropped back nearly two decades, as 9-year-old students dropped five points in their reading scores.

“If COVID-19 surges again or other weather, climate, or infrastructure challenges occur, districts may choose to operate remotely or close buildings for periods of time,” the AEI report stated.”District leaders should be aware that extended remote instruction can erode confidence of parents, particularly those with younger students and affect future enrollments.”

AEI did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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Reagan Reese is a reporter at Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Remote Learning” by Diva Plavalaguna.




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