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Where did the kids missing from school go?

The COVID-19 pandemic is still showing its effects on the educational system. An analysis by The Associated Press, Stanford University’s Big Local News project and Stanford education professor Thomas Dee found an estimated 230,000 students in 21 states whose absences could not be accounted for. These students didn’t move out of state, and they didn’t sign up for private school or home-school, according to publicly available data.

In total, nearly 700,000 students in the 21 states in the report left school in the 2019-2020 and 2021-2020 school years. Some of those not enrolled in public schools were accounted for: 103,000 enrolled in private schools, 184,000 switched to home school, and, when factoring in families moving and lower birth rates, another 183,000 were missing from the census. That leaves another 230,000 that can't be accounted for. These students didn't move or transfer to private or home schools. They are missing.

Over months of reporting, the Associated Press learned students and families did not return to school for a range of reasons, including fear of COVID-19, depression, homelessness, and hopelessness. Some left the country. Others couldn’t study online and found jobs instead.

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