Did They Stay or Did They Go? Mapping Enrollment Losses During the First Full Pandemic School Year

January 3, 2024

Prior IBO analysis tracked students during the first full school year of the pandemic (2020-2021) to identify how many students returned to New York City public schools the next year, and how many students left the public school system—either through moves out of New York City or transfers to New York City private schools. To examine district-level changes, IBO mapped traditional public school changes in retention rate, traditional public school students who moved out of New York City, and traditional public school students who transferred to New York City private schools. For each measure, IBO calculated the difference between the share of students during the baseline school year (2018-2019), and the share of students during the first full pandemic school year (2020-2021). Note that for this analysis, IBO did not look at students who were initially enrolled in charter schools.

Retention. IBO compared retention rates following the first pandemic year with retention rates after the baseline year, the 2018-2019 school year. IBO defined the retention rate as the share of public school students enrolled in one year who then returned to any city public school the following year. Students are considered retained regardless of where they enrolled the following year: at a traditional public school, a charter school, or within District 75 or District 79. IBO found that retention rates fell across all 32 traditional public school districts, but to varying degrees.

Districts 3, 16, And 22 Saw the Greatest Declines in Retention Rates

Public School Students Who Moved Out of New York City. IBO also looked at students who later moved out of New York City by the traditional public school districts they attended before they left the city school system. IBO used the Department of Education’s discharge codes—a code assigned to students when they leave the New York City public school system indicating their reason for leaving. From the baseline year to the first pandemic year, the share of students moving out of New York City increased across all districts.

Moves Out of New York City Increased Across All Traditional Public School Districts

Public School Students Who Transferred to Private Schools. IBO also looked at traditional public school students who discharged to private schools, by the traditional public school district they attended before their transfer. IBO used the DOE’s indicator for non-public schools, which includes independent schools and parochial schools. During the first pandemic year, most traditional public school districts saw a slight increase in the share of students who transferred to private schools as compared with the share who did during the baseline year—with the exception of two districts: District 6, which includes Inwood through Washington Heights within Manhattan, and District 9, which includes the southwest Bronx.

While Two Traditional Public School Districts Experienced a Decrease in Transfers to Private Schools, Most Districts Experienced A Slight Increase 

SOURCE: IBO analysis of Department of Education Audited Register data. 
NOTES: Analysis includes students in pre-K through 11th grade, attending traditional public schools in Districts 1-32.