October 23, 2020

Need to know: COVID-19

Dropping Knowledge

Average daily membership (ADM) in North Carolina’s K-12 public schools (excluding charter schools) has dropped 5% this year compared to the same time last year, according to new data released this week from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Average daily membership is how the state calculates how many students are in schools, and DPI says it is a more accurate count than enrollment.

Some districts are reporting declines as big as 16% (Guilford County Schools) with only two districts reporting an increase. Here are some key takeaways from my colleague Analisa Sorrells’ reporting:

  • Kindergarten ADM this year is down 15% with almost 16,000 fewer kindergarten students in schools.
  • 10 districts had a decrease in ADM more than -10% this year. In comparison, from 2018-19 to 2019-20, no districts had a decrease in ADM more than -10%.
  • 41 districts experienced ADM declines between 5% and 9.99%.

Normally, districts with actual ADM lower than their projected ADM would face budget cuts. However, the General Assembly passed legislation to hold districts harmless for ADM declines, meaning they won’t face budget cuts. Community colleges, who are likely facing larger enrollment losses, have not been granted relief from budget cuts due to enrollment declines.

For your consideration

The Education Trust released a new report this week looking at how free college programs can be designed with equity in mind. They examine 23 statewide policies and find that few cover the full costs of college, including books and room and board, and many free college programs provide more benefit to students who can afford college than to low-income students who need the resources the most. They also find many programs explicitly exclude adult and returning students.

They make the following recommendations to improve free college programs:

  • Include all students
  • Go beyond tuition and cover living costs
  • Make improvements over time
  • Be transparent — share data about who participates in free college programs, including demographic information and their outcomes (persistence and graduation)
  • Invest in student success — reverse the historical trend of giving fewer dollars to colleges serving disproportionately more students of color and low-income students

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