© 2024 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Illinois Report Card shows Rockford Public Schools making slight academic improvement

Rockford Public Schools students
Rockford Public Schools students

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Ehren Jarrett knows the district’s graduation rate is not where it needs to be. About 69% of RPS students graduate high school in four years, according to the new 2023 edition of theIllinois Report Cardreleased on Monday. It’s an online education database on every public K-12 school in Illinois.

The graduation rate at RPS, the state’s 3rd-largest school district, is nearly 20 percentage points below the state average. But, it’s higher than last year, and actually higher than pre-pandemic.

“We're really encouraged to see some gains,” he said. “So that will be the first step but absolutely getting to state average and beyond and, ultimately, the target is always going to be 100%.”

Jarrett also knows that getting the graduation rate up to the state average starts way before a student’s senior year. That’s why the district’s other two main priorities areFreshmen On-Track Rate and 3rd-grade literacy.

Both of those metrics increased incrementally this year. The rate of 9th-graders on track to graduate had been improving steadilyover the past few years. 3rd-grade literacy rates are higher in Rockford than pre-pandemic, but still lag far behind the state average.

RPS showed major progress in chronic absenteeism. That’s when students miss over 10% of the school year without an excuse. Last year, 60% of Rockford students missed that much school. This year, it’s down to 47.5%. The superintendent says bringing that down is key to getting other numbers up.

“If you look at something like third grade literacy, graduation rate freshmen on track, none of those metrics will continue to improve like they have if chronic absenteeism rates don't decrease,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, we need our children, our students here with us in order to maximize the potential for increased student achievement.”

But this year’s chronic absence rate is still nearly20 percentage points abovethe state average. And while the district showed gradual improvement in several areas this year, it’s still far behind the state average in most.

The district also expanded the school day at most elementary schools by 35 minutes this year to focus on literacy.

You can find the new education data at illinoisreportcard.com

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