Chicago, IL

Problematic Chicago Public School Enrollment Stabilizes After Decade of Decline According to Data

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

After years of declining enrollment, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is finally seeing stabilization in student numbers
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For the first time in over a decade, Chicago Public School (CPS) system enrollment has shown signs of stability, according to preliminary data. This development comes after the district witnessed a significant loss of 80,000 students over an 11-year period, leading to the relinquishment of its status as the nation's third-largest public school district.

A vareity of factors have contributed to the chronically decreasing CPS enrollment. These include families deciding to leave the city, low birth rates and a decrease in immigration. Although more than 6,000 migrant children have joined the students at CPS, experts say this alone doesn't account for the turnaround.

The reversal in enrollment trends can be attributed to several factors, including efforts to improve educational offerings, expand access to quality schools, and enhance outreach to families. The CPS administration has been working diligently to address these issues and boost student retention.

The number of English learners has increased by over 6,000 from last year, although these are not all newly arrived migrants. English learners account for over 25 percent of the student body. The number of special education students has also grown by more than 2,500. This population currently makes up about 16 percent of CPS students.

At the same time there has been a continued decrease in students from low inclme families. There are about 18,000 less students from low income families this year compared to last. Whereas this population last year accounted for over 73 percent of the student body, this year that number is down to 67 percent. As of now, it isn't entirly clear why enrollment has stabalized at this point though further analyses will be conducted examining a larger group of predictors.

The stabilization of enrollment in CPS has far-reaching implications for the city's educational system and budget planning. It provides a glimmer of hope after years of grappling with decreasing student numbers, which often led to school closures, staff layoffs, and budget constraints.

While this stabilization is a positive sign, challenges remain. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, changing demographics, and competition from alternative educational options have all played a role in the district's enrollment fluctuations.

Yet the fact that CPS is no longer hemorrhaging students at the same rate as before is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the district and its leadership. It reflects a commitment to providing quality education and a supportive learning environment to Chicago's youth.

The stabilization of CPS enrollment is expected to bring about a sense of security for educators, students, and parents. It allows for better long-term planning, a more predictable budget, and the opportunity to invest in improving the educational experience for all students.

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