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School Year Challenged By COVID Show Problems For Ohio Students, Schools

Masked students sit in a classroom at Worthington Kilbourne High School near Columbus in March 2021.
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Masked students sit in a classroom at Worthington Kilbourne High School near Columbus in March 2021.

Enrollment was lower, test scores were down and absences were way up in Ohio’s traditional public schools last year, as students, teachers and families struggled with the continuing impact of the pandemic. State and local education officials will use that data to plan how to deal with those challenges.

It’s probably not a surprise that last school year, state test results were down.

Chris Woolard, the senior executive director of the center of performance and impact at the Ohio Department of Education, said they were about eight points lower in state language arts tests and 15 points down in math.

“We also know that some of the decreases were more pronounced in districts that were primarily in remote status last year," Woolard said. "So we look at the numbers that are definitely down and not surprisingly, it didn't sort of impact everybody the same.”

Nearly a quarter of kids – 380,000 – were chronically absent. The report says: "As is the typical pattern for chronic absenteeism, Ohio’s historically underserved and vulnerable students, and students in urban areas, experienced higher rates of chronic absenteeism than their peers."

Again, Woolard said that wasn't a shock to anyone.

“Those numbers went up quite a bit last year, but at the same time, that's probably not surprising. I mean, there's a lot of different factors that went into student attendance and all the messiness that was the last school year. So many ways we're not really surprised," Woolard said.

Enrollment also dropped by about 53,000 students or 3%, but half of that decrease was in preschool and kindergarten enrollment. Woolard said that may be mostly from parents holding kids back from kindergarten.

Homeschooling was up by about 18,000 students. While that is an increase of 55%, Woolard said he wouldn't call it a huge increase, but added that it's something ODE will continue to monitor: "Part of what we hope to find over time is where those kids are coming from and where they continue to go over time."

The full report is here.

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