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New 2021 Illinois Report Card Data Shows Impact Of Pandemic On Enrollment & Academics

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Nearly 70,000 fewer students enrolled in Illinois schools last year. That’s according to new education data from the Illinois Report Card, released on Friday.

The 2021 Report Card sheds some light on the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic -- which the Illinois State Board of Education says disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic students.

Brenda Dixon is the research and evaluation officer at the State Board of Education.

“One in five Illinois students was chronically absent last year, a 21% increase over 2019,” she said. “When looking at chronic absenteeism by student group, we see an increase across programs with the biggest increase among English learners, a 38% increase over 2019.”

Chronic absence means they missed 10% or more of the school year.

Although the 2021 graduation rate held steady, data shows fewer 9th graders are on track to graduate.

Preliminary testing data shows far fewer students met grade-level standards, and there were even more substantial decreases in proficiency with younger students.

But State Superintendent Carmen Ayala says she was pleasantly surprised to see an increase in students taking AP courses. More students than ever enrolled in dual-credit courses, as well.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic," said Dixon, "students took academically rigorous classes to prepare for college and career."

Also, the state added almost 2,000 more full-time teachers and there were fewer unfilled teaching positions.

Peter joins WNIJ as a graduate of North Central College. He is a native of Sandwich, Illinois.