Tracie Mauriello / Bridge Michigan / Chalkbeat
Kindergarten enrollment was down 11.3% across Michigan last year as parents chose to keep their students home rather than face the COVID health risk. In River Rouge it was down 37.2%. In some places — Flint, Benton Harbor, Chandler Park Academy, and Old Redford — fewer than half of last year’s would-be public school kindergarteners showed up.
Now, teachers across Michigan — one of 31 states where kindergarten is optional — are working to help them catch up to their peers.
As they entered school this year, parents and administrators had to decide where to place 5-year-olds who didn’t go to kindergarten last year.
Teachers have always had to adapt lessons to meet children’s different needs. But kindergarten and first-grade teachers said this year’s challenges have been more pronounced because some children moved directly into first grade with their peer group while others enrolled in kindergarten a year late.
Overall, 13,593 fewer kindergarten students registered for public traditional and charter schools in Michigan last year compared with 2019-20. Enrollment figures for the current school year aren’t yet available.
Last year’s kindergarten enrollment was particularly low in communities with more Black, Latino, and low-income families, putting already disadvantaged students a year behind their peers.
“Historically, schools have not done a great job of serving minority kids and families, so any time schools are additionally burdened they’re likely to do even less of a good job,” said Amy Parks, professor of early childhood education at Michigan State University.
State enrollment shows students who did not enroll in public school kindergarten weren’t flocking to private schools, either. Private school enrollment increased by less than 1%.
Some children may have been taught at home but it’s impossible to know how many because Michigan doesn’t require homeschool registration.
Thousands, though, were unaccounted for last year.
Read the full article about Kindergarten enrollment by Tracie Mauriello at Chalkbeat Detroit.
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