Illinois school report card 2022: State sees highest graduation rate in a decade despite high levels of absent students


This year’s Illinois report card is out and it shows the highest graduation rate in a decade.

However, it also shows a glaring pandemic-related issue.

There were improved high school graduation rates across the board, but dramatically high levels of chronic absenteeism, particularly among Black and Brown students. Those are just two of the data points revealed by this year’s Illinois school report card that was published Thursday.

“Despite all the challenges, Illinois is defying expectations with so many positive developments,” Governor JB Pritzer said.

While choosing to focus on the positives, Gov. Pritzker and the state superintendent for education, Dr. Camen Ayala, acknowledged some glaring issues. Namely, while students in all demographics have shown learning growth that brings them back to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, proficiency rates in math and English language arts have declined significantly, particularly among Black and Latino students.

Dr. Ayala said growth is a more important indicator level than proficiency, which is boiled down to a passing or failing grade.

“It doesn’t say that I’m a third grader and I came in reading at a first-grade level, right? And what the growth is telling me is now I’m reading on grade level, but my proficiency level is still at this point,” Dr. Ayala explained.

With 37,000 mostly minority students, Elgin’s School District U-46 is the second largest in the state. Officials there acknowledge the situation as schools emerge from the pandemic is far from rosy.

“When we returned to in-person learning, predominantly, it was our white and Asian middle and upper-class families who returned for in-person instruction. And our lower income, predominantly Black and Latino students whose families chose to keep them at home for fear,” said Dr. Tony Sanders, the superintendent for School District U-46.

Dr. Sanders said what is particularly problematic are the levels of chronic absenteeism, which over the last four years has grown statewide from 16.8% to 29.8%. Among minority students, that number is much higher with 47.9% of Black students and 36.1% of Latino students were chronically absent last year.

“Parents were also conditioned during COVID that it’s OK to keep the kid home. So certainly, we want students staying home if they’re ill, but otherwise, we have to create the conditions for them to come to school every day,” Dr. Sanders said.

Those conditions include addressing students’ social and emotional needs so that they want to be in school again, educators said. But they also said this won’t be a one or two-year fix. Some fear that the pandemic had a generational impact with consequences that will continue to be felt for years to come.

To see your school’s grade, visit illinoisreportcard.com.

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