North Carolina homeschooling numbers explode during pandemic

A homeschooling family is featured in this undated file photo. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

RALEIGH — According to the most recent report by the state’s Division of Non-Public Education (DNPE), homeschooling numbers in North Carolina exploded during the pandemic.

DNPE’s report for the 2020-21 school year reveals 19,294 new homeschools were established, blowing away 9,481 new homeschools established during 2019-20. That’s almost a 104% jump between the two years.

The total number of homeschools for 2020-21 statewide totaled 112,614, which is almost a gain of 19% over the previous year of 94,863. For 2020-21, the state’s two largest districts led the count with 10,090 in Wake County and 8,513 in Mecklenburg.

There were 179,900 homeschooled students in 2020-21, representing a 20.6% increase over the 149,173 students for the previous school year. If homeschool students were their own district, it would be the largest in the state, easily surpassing Wake County’s 2019-20 enrollment of 161,907. Wake County is the 15th largest district in the country.

During 2020-21, Wake County had the largest homeschool student population in the state at 16,347 students and Mecklenburg was not far behind with 13,279 students. The year prior, Wake had 13,575 students and Mecklenburg had 11,148.

Public school enrollment in the state is still being finalized; however, the current information shows a 3% drop in enrollment over the pandemic. Private school enrollment rose 3.3 percent.

A recent survey of the state’s school districts conducted by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction at the request of the General Assembly shows that districts were unable to contact some 6,986 students out of a K-12 population of 1,291,497 during the 2020-21 school year.

Charter schools that participated in the survey reported being unable to contact 798 students during the pandemic out of 114,424 students.

Ten districts and 22 charter schools did not respond to the survey, and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction says that the retainment numbers do not consider the impact of summer learning programs.

Additionally, the survey shows districts expect to retain around 6% of students across K-12, with the highest retainment in high school grades nine (17%), 10 (13%), and 11 (10%). The overall retainment percentage is double that from the 2019-20 school year.

Charter schools reported a 5% average student retainment rate. Similar to district schools, the highest retainment percentages fell in grades nine (9%) and 10 (7%), but Kindergarten (6%) rounded out the top three. The previous year, charters reported an average retainment rate of 2%.

A spreadsheet with detailed district-level responses can be accessed here.

About A.P. Dillon 1209 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_