Data shows COVID-19 led to significantly diminished learning, attendance across IL last year

Chicago Public Schools saw 2.5% enrollment drop
CHICAGO (WLS) -- New education data analyzed by the I-Team shows the pandemic significantly diminished learning and attendance statewide during the past school year.

New Illinois State Board of Education data shows that the last academic year had a larger than anticipated drop in enrollment, increases in chronic absenteeism and drops in students attaining proficiency in key subjects. The 2021 update to the Illinois Report Card, released Friday morning, shows the number of students enrolled statewide dropped by almost 70,000 to 1,887,316.

That 3.6% drop in enrollment, the largest in over 15 years, is well ahead of the 1.1% drop ISBE anticipated for a typical year. ISBE said this drop is "on par with the approximately 3 percent average drop in enrolment reported by other states," and attributed the larger drop to the pandemic. Chicago Public Schools saw a drop in enrollment as well, down 2.5% to 338,956 students.

ISBE cautioned that much of the data for the 2020 academic year is less reliable due to the impact of remote learning, emergency actions and the lack of data collection early in the pandemic. As such, they recommend comparing the new 2021 statistics to 2019 for multiple data points.

Statewide, the attendance rate fell from 94% in 2019 to 92.5% in 2021. The rate of chronic absenteeism, defined as students missing at least 1 in 10 school days, rose from 17.5% in 2019 to 21.2% in 2021. Almost all demographic groups saw an increase in chronic absenteeism, with Black students most impacted by a rise from 30.9% to 39%. English Learners were also heavily impacted, with a rise from 17.2% in 2019 to 23.8% in 2021 chronically absent.

Chicago Public Schools saw a larger drop in attendance, from 93.2% in 2019 to 89.1% in 2021. The increase in chronic absenteeism was larger than that seen statewide, from 24% in 2019 to 30.2% in 2021.

Statewide, preliminary data for Spring 2021 shows a drop in academic achievement in both English language arts and math. For English language arts, the percent of students meeting or exceeding standards across all grades dropped from 37.4% in 2019 to 31.2% in 2021. For math, the drop was from 32% to 26.3% across all grades.

Students in earlier grades tended to see larger drops in proficiency. ISBE said younger students "may have struggled more in remote learning than their older peers".

Across all grades, low-income students saw larger drops in proficiency. For English language arts, the percent meeting or exceeding standards dropped from 22.6% in 2019 to 15.6% in 2021, while in math the drop was from 11.1% to 5.9%.

English Learners were also heavily impacted across all grades, with the percent meeting or exceeding standards in English language arts dropping from 9.9% in 2019 to 4.8% in 2021. For Math, the drop was from 11.1% to 5.1%.

The rate of ninth grade students on track to graduate statewide dropped from 86.6% in 2019 to 82.2% in 2021, due to an increase in students receiving failing grades. The percent of ninth graders on track to graduate dropped for all demographic groups from 2021 to 2019, with Native American and Pacific Islander students most heavily impacted, each down nine percentage points.

The 4-year graduation rate rose slightly in 2021, from 85.9% in 2019 to 86%. Chicago Public Schools saw a larger increase, from 76.5% in 2019 to 78.2% in 2021.

For the first time, the retention rate of teachers by race and ethnicity has been published. Statewide, Black teachers have the lowest retention rate at 80.6%, compared to 87.1% teacher retention overall. White teachers are the only group to have a higher than average retention rate at 87.6%. The retention rate for Hispanic or Latino teachers matches the overall figure at 87.1%, while all other races and ethnicities have teacher retention rates lower than average.

The overall teacher retention rate has continued to rise year-over-year, while the demographics of teachers has grown more diverse. Statewide, Illinois schools have gained 1,251 more Hispanic or Latino teachers, while the number of Black teachers is up 184. Teacher pay rose 3.9% to $70,705.
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