POST PANDEMIC EDUCATION ADJUSTMENTS
Americans are beginning to attempt to return to pre-pandemic life. Although it won’t be an “all-in” result for some time, the effort has begun. Much to everyone’s surprise, K to 12 education will potentially show more change based on lessons learned over the past two years than will most other economic sectors. Perhaps the most interesting results will be seen in the impact increasing homeschool numbers will have on education as we have known it over the previous few decades. Homeschooling numbers have increased in a statistically significant way, but the question to be answered will be whether this trend will continue into the future as Americans adjust to the long-term economic and social fallout left behind by the pandemic.
1. Along with the increase in homeschool registration numbers, there has been an interesting corollary in the increased demand for online learning resources – most specifically, the demand for access to broadband connections. While suburban and rural need for such services continued to be high, the overall increased demand has been “concentrated among more affluent geographic areas with high levels of existing broadband connections.” (Boston University/BU 2021)
2. Another interesting and perhaps unexpected change occurred when parents quickly shifted to at-home learning to avoid sending their children to in-person learning situations. Included in this group were families who simply shifted to private schools from public schools. The question became “why private schools rather than public schools?”
Rich Barlow, writing on December 14, 2021, for BU Today, interviewed Joshua Goodman, Boston University associate professor of education and economics about lessons learned from this shift to private schools and homeschools. “Though we can’t test this directly with our data,” Goodman reported, “other studies have found that private schools (and homeschools) were more likely to offer in-person instruction than public schools. In our study, we found that there were relatively larger shifts to private schooling among areas where the public school system offered only remote learning, suggesting that some families sought out in-person learning when the public education system did not offer it.” (https://www.bu.edu/articles/2021/homeschooling-rising-public-school-down-during-covid19/)
- A September 2021 study conducted by the University of Michigan along with Boston University found that “when families did not have an option for remote instruction in the public sector, they were more likely to pursue homeschooling. On the other hand, when families did not have access to in-person instruction, they were more likely to shift to the private sector.”
2. A National Public Radio News story by Kyra Miles, posted on December 13, 2021, indicated that “more Black families are homeschooling their children, citing the pandemic and racism…It’s a common perception that white, evangelical families are the most likely to homeschool their children. But a growing number of Black families have started teaching their kids at home — especially during the pandemic. The Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey found that in April 2020, 3% of Black households homeschooled their children, and by October 2020 it was up to 16%.”
These trends, and others, indicate that “states and districts need to be prepared for lower-than-average student enrollments in the near term, but a rebound at some point. This means that the public education sector will need to be more nimble than in the past to make sure classrooms are fully staffed with effective educators…It may also suggest that state and local policymakers need to respond more effectively to future crises if public schools want to retain and attract families who have alternative schooling options.”
HOMESCHOOLING, PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
As emerging trends begin to manifest in American society, public schools may have to take notice and adjust to survive as primary K to 12 education providers in the U.S.
The same 2021 study, conducted by the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, tracked effects of the pandemic on a range of K to 12 options. Entitled “The Pandemic’s Effect on Demand for Public Schools, Homeschooling and Private Schools,” findings included in the report “shed light on how families make schooling decisions and may imply potential longer-run disruptions to public schools.” These disruptions might come “in the form of shifts in cohort sizes (i.e, loosely interpreted as “classroom size”), composition, and school funding.”
The study cites four relevant facts (Summarized):
- Public school enrollment declined noticeably in fall 2020. The predominant age of students relevant to this decline was concentrated in grades K to 6.
2. Homeschooling rates jumped substantially in the fall of 2020, also driven largely by families with children in elementary school.
3. “Homeschooling increased more where schools provided in-person instruction while private schooling increased more where instruction was remote, suggesting important differences across families in their concerns about children’s physical health and instructional quality.”
4. “Kindergarten enrollment declines were concentrated among low income and Black students, while the smaller declines in other grades and for incumbent students were disproportionately among higher income and White students.”
THE FINAL ANALYSIS – 3 CLOSING COMMENTS
- RichDadNews, December 14, 2021, posted an article titled “We’ve Only Just Begun to See the Benefits of the New Surge in Homeschool.” Observation: “For decades, countless parents have been on autopilot when it comes to letting the state manage their child’s education. But over the past two years, millions of parents have begun to take control.” (https://richdadsnews.com/2021/12/14/weve-only-just-begun-to-see-the-benefits-of-the-new-surge-in-homeschooling/)
2. MISES WIRE/Mises Institute, December 2, 2021 – Writer Alice Salles noted: “While legacy media focused on cases of parents keeping their kids home out of fear of covid, longtime critics of the public school system argued that the pandemic actually helped to expose parents to the shortcomings that have long plagued public education.” (https://mises.org/wire/weve-only-just-begun-see-benefits-new-surge-homeschooling)
3. FTI Consulting, Inc. posted this closing comment in a December 20, 2021, blog entry: “It will be interesting to continue to track interest in alternative education and the number of homeschooling students in the years to come as society adapts to the fallout from the pandemic. Traditional school enrollment will also continue to be affected by changes in demographics, families moving from larger metropolitan areas into rural and smaller cities, responses to lockdowns, vaccine mandates, availability of in-person schooling, and other macro factors. As public-school funding is generally based on the number of enrolled students, it will be notable to watch what, if anything, public school systems will do to stave off falling enrollment, or if the way of the future will continue to indicate that homeschool is, in fact, still “cool.” (https://www.fticonsulting.com/insights/articles/is-homeschool-still-cool)