Illinois school report card shows declining test scores, increased absences

Chicago News

CHICAGO — The Illinois State Board of Education released their school report card on Friday, revealing the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on students.

Among the findings were declining test scores alongside an increase in chronic absences.

The report card shows how the state, along with each school and district, are progressing on a wide range of educational goals.

“This is what happened during the pandemic, this is the result of the pandemic on our system,” Illinois Board of Education member Dr. Brenda Dixon said.

Dixon said the steep declines shown in the report surpass anything she has seen or will see.

“We’ll never see another report card that has data equivalent to what we’re looking at this year,” Dixon said.

Dixon is the research and evaluation officer of the state’s Board of Education. She said it’s important to analyze this data to know how to handle these issues.

“I’m a believer that if you don’t know where you’ve been, then you can’t move forward and you continue to make the same mistakes,” Dixon said.

They’re faced with some concerning statistics. The report found that one in five students was chronically absent last year, missing more than 10 percent of the school year, marking a 21 percent increase from 2019.

“We attribute that increase as a direct correlation to the pandemic, especially if students did not have access or a way to engage with their educators, they ended up being shown as being absent,” Dixon said.

Test scores have also plummeted, with between 17 to 18 percent fewer students meeting grade-level standards in English and Math.

For the rate of 9th graders on track to graduate high school, there was a 5 percent decrease.

“If the pandemic didn’t prove anything else to be true, it’s made very clear that our teachers are the backbone of our education system, the backbone of society. You remove them from the equation, this is what will happen to our students,” Dixon said.

While the data is troubling, the board said they will make good use of it.

“Yes, it’s proven what we already anticipated, but it’s allowed us to actually develop a roadmap and plan for where we will target our resources based on current data of what truly happened,” Dixon said.

One bright spot seen in the report was a rise in college and career readiness. Educators said they anticipated the same declines seen elsewhere, but were pleasantly surprised to see more students taking rigorous courses.

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