• Erica Peterson

A Solid Foundation?

Recovering and Retaining Missing Students


Hands stacking wooden blocks that risk falling over.

Across the nation, schools reported large enrollment drops during the 2020-21 year. According to a recent article from ABC News schools across the country are still reporting thousands of students unaccounted for. “...In Arizona, about 38,500 fewer students are enrolled in public schools this year, with about 40% of that decline among preschool and kindergarten students, opting to postpone enrollment. Others may have become disengaged with their public schools.”


As schools plan for in-person and/or hybrid instruction this fall, educators are wondering will students return?

“We were really brought to our knees by this pandemic in the first 90 days, and that translated into some really hard hits. The first 40 days of school, we took a gut wrenching 2,800 in student loss. That was about 6% of our student body... that's a lot,” Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo told ABC News.” The flow of federal stimulus dollars has temporarily staved off the financial impact from these attendance losses, but these dollars will dry up in the year ahead.


As schools plan for in-person and/or hybrid instruction this fall, educators are wondering will students return? I think a better question to ask is, what are we doing at our schools to ensure all students feel wanted and welcome? Family outreach coupled with an early-warning system that implements evidence-based re-engagement strategies are a district’s best hope at recovering and retaining students.


Investing federal stimulus dollars in programs that focus on attendance and enrollment should be the foundation that all unfinished learning and learning loss recovery plans build upon.

“School is the great equalizer in American society. Bad things happen when you don't graduate from high school, worse things happen when you don't even start high school,” Trujillo said. “These young lives matter, and we want them back in the only place that they need to be right now, and that’s school.”


Investing federal stimulus dollars in programs that focus on attendance and enrollment should be the foundation that all unfinished learning and learning loss recovery plans build upon. While the pandemic, upended traditional classroom schooling for the past 18 months, districts have a much longer remediation road ahead that will extend well beyond these one-time dollars received.


We like quotes at SI&A and this felt fitting, “Every action has an impact; choose wisely the impact you want to have.” —Mindy Hall



As ever, I've got plenty of strategies to help you lay a solid foundation for student success. Let's connect at AskErica@sia-us.com.