Pritzker, Ayala point to positive trends in report card, acknowledge pandemic’s toll
SPRINGFIELD — Gov. JB Pritzker and State School Superintendent Carmen Ayala on Thursday touted some of the more positive findings from the 2022 school report card, insisting that Illinois schools are on the right track while also acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on student learning.
“To say that these last two-and-a-half years have been difficult for our teachers and our students would be an understatement,” Pritzker said. “What now seems like lifetimes ago, our educators in Illinois and throughout the nation had to navigate the sudden transition to online learning, all while working to give their students the support and resources they needed to not only thrive, but to survive.”
Pritzker and Ayala spoke at an event at J. Sterling Morton West High School, a school with a large population of Hispanic students in the southwest Chicago suburb of Berwyn. That school saw its four-year graduation rate grow more than 5 percentage points over the 2019 rate, to 85.6 percent.
“And this trend is happening at high schools across Illinois,” Ayala said. “As a state in 2022, students reached the highest four-year graduation rate in 12 years, and it’s driven by the gains of our Black and Hispanic students.”
Overall, the report card showed declines in the percentage of students in grades 3-8 scoring at or above grade level in English language arts and math. Those trends were consistent with national trends measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
But it also showed the statewide four-year high school graduation rate reaching a high of 87.3 percent, as well as an increase in the number of students completing Algebra I in eighth grade.
More than anything, though, Pritzker and Ayala highlighted the student growth rate, a new metric devised last year to track not just whether students are proficient, but how much progress they are making from one year to the next.
The report showed that while students may be scoring lower than their peers did in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year tests were given, but they are progressing at a faster rate than the earlier class.
“Every single demographic group in Illinois experienced accelerated growth in both English language arts and math, outpacing pre-pandemic levels,” Pritzker said.
When asked by a reporter about the declining proficiency rates, Ayala said it was largely due to the impact that COVID-19 had on low-income communities and communities of color, but she insisted that academic growth is the more important metric to consider.
“And so that can account for those declines that we’re seeing nationwide,” she said. “We really need to focus also on the growth because that’s telling us we’re doing some very specific systemic things in Illinois with our recovery initiatives and interventions that are having a big impact on the growth. And that will move towards and translate to higher proficiency levels as we continue to recover.”
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