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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Enrollment in Iowa’s elementary and secondary schools last academic year dropped for the first time in eight years, according to the latest Condition of Education report Friday.
Officials with the state Department of Education reported that last school year’s student count of 484,159 in K-12 districts represented a drop of nearly 6,000 students — or just over 1 percent — from the 490,094 total for the 2019-20 school year.
“While we can’t say that the pandemic was the sole reason for the decrease in enrollment during the 2020-21 school year, it was likely a contributing factor,” said an email to The Gazette from Heather Doe, spokeswoman for the Education Department.
While declines for the first time since the 2011-12 school year occurred across most grade levels, she said, “the largest drops were in preschool and kindergarten enrollment.” Preschool enrollment dropped nearly 13 percent, according to the enrollment counts, and kindergarten enrollment declined about 5 percent.
“Data and information are vital for driving school improvement, especially following a school year of unforeseen challenges brought on by a global pandemic,” state Education Director Ann Lebo said in a statement that accompanied the report.
“Providing and interpreting data is needed to continue moving forward as our education landscape evolves, but data doesn’t tell the whole story,” Lebo said. “It is important for Iowans to connect with their schools to learn more about programs and initiatives underway that are helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.”
K-12 enrollment in Cedar Rapids Community School District dropped 1,651 students — almost 10 percent — from 16,597 during the 2019-20 school year to 14,946 during the 2020-21 school year.
K-12 enrollment in Iowa City Community School District dropped 992 students — about 6.5 percent — from 14,939 during the 2019-20 school year to 13,947 during the 2020-21 school year.
The latest yearly report also indicated that minority students made up 26.1 percent of the student population in Iowa school districts, up from 25.7 percent the previous year. The portion of students whose native language is not English was 6.3 percent in 2020-21, slightly down from 6.5 percent the year before.
Another data point indicated that the percentage of students eligible for free- or reduced-price lunches lowered to 41.8 percent, from 42.4 percent the year before, according to the latest report.
The number of full-time teachers in public schools in 2020-21 stood at 38,022, up from 37,567 the year before and 13.1 percent higher compared with 2000-01, when the total was 33,610. Average regular teacher salaries were $58,771 a year, up $661 from the previous year.
The level of high school students taking Advanced Placement college-level courses fell from 54.3 percent for the 2019-20 school year to 51.7 percent in the latest report. The percentage of students from Iowa’s class of 2021 who took higher-level mathematics, including calculus, statistics and trigonometry was 48.8 percent, up slightly from 48.6 percent the previous year.
Department officials said the 2021 Annual Condition of Education report includes data on preschool-through-12th grade student populations and demographics, academic achievement, postsecondary enrollment and completion, special education, teacher and school administrator characteristics and salaries and school financial information.
Additionally, an online companion to the report allows education stakeholders to dig deeper into interactive enrollment and staffing data at the state and school-district levels. A new version of the site will launch next month that will allow users to easily export their district-level and state data, according to the state agency.
Grace King of The Gazette contributed to this report.