FILE - Wisconsin charter schools

First-graders listen to teacher Dwane Davis at Milwaukee Math and Science Academy, a charter school in Milwaukee.

(The Center Square) – A lot of young kids didn’t enroll in closed-down schools this year, and it’s tough to find all of the students who didn’t show up for online learning. But a new report into Wisconsin schools has a few surprises.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum released a new report Thursday as part of its annual School DataTool Kit.

The report said enrollment fell by over 25,000 kids in the 2020-2021 school year.

“The largest declines can be seen in the 4-year-old and kindergarten age groups, as those students may have delayed school for another year. There also may have been higher numbers of transfers of other students to private schools,” the report states.

The Policy Forum also said attendance is and has been down. But the report says that’s a tougher number to settle on.

“Attendance rates remained largely flat in the 2019-2020 school year, the most recent for which there is data, but the latter part of that year was upended by the statewide school closure linked to the pandemic,” according to the report. “It is unclear how different schools and districts may have reported or recorded attendance during the period of widespread remote learning that concluded that school year.”

That change in attendance, and the decision by many schools to essentially not count work in the last half of last year, could also play a role in graduation and dropout rates.  The report says they improved.

“Statewide graduation rates continued their ascent, rising from 90.0% in 2018-19 to 90.4% in 2019-20. Students of nearly all races saw increases over the previous year with the exception of Black students, whose graduation rate dropped slightly from 71.3% to 70.8%,” the report stated.

The report goes on to say that fewer black students dropped out last spring.

”The dropout rate for Black students dropped from 4.3% in 2018-19 to 3.6% in 2019-20, marking the fourth consecutive year of declines for these students,” according to the report. “Other groups saw declines as well. Like other metrics, dropout rates may have been affected by the pandemic.”

The Policy Forum said it will update the report when it gets newer data about the end of the current school year, which is set to close-out across the state in June.