2-in-5 Illinois low-income students chronically absent

2-in-5 Illinois low-income students chronically absent

Chronic absenteeism rates among Illinois public school students increased after the pandemic-era school closures. Rates are even higher among low-income students, limiting their futures.

Chronic absenteeism in Illinois public schools remained high in 2023, threatening students’ academic progress – especially for low-income students.

About 28% of Illinois students were chronically absent in the 2022-2023 school year. That compares to a rate of 17.5% in the last full school year before the pandemic.

The rate is 10 percentage points higher among Illinois’ low-income students: 38% missed at least 10% of their school days in 2023.

Many low-income students were left without options during the pandemic. Now, absenteeism remains high for many of these students, threatening poor outcomes such as dropping out of school and lower annual earnings.

Chronic absenteeism among Illinois’ low-income students

Two-out-of-five Illinois students from low-income families missed 18 or more days of school. That’s considered chronic absenteeism, defined as missing 10% or more of school days per year either with or without a valid excuse.

Chronic absenteeism rose during the pandemic and many districts have struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, chronic absenteeism was 25% for low-income Illinois students compared to 38% last year.

Chronic absenteeism rose for all students in Illinois between 2019 and 2023, from 18% to 28%.

Low proficiency for low-income students

Low-income Illinois students met proficiency standards at lower rates than the statewide percentage, according to the state’s data.

During the 2022-2023 school year, only 21% of low-income third- through eighth-grade students were proficient in reading and 13% in math. Meanwhile, 35% of all Illinois third through eighth graders were proficient in reading and 27% in math.

Among Illinois’ high school juniors, 32% were proficient in reading and 27% in math. Only 15% of low-income juniors met proficiency in reading and 11% in math.

Absenteeism increases risk for poor outcomes among Illinois’ disadvantaged

Research shows frequent absences from school place children and adolescents at a higher risk of poor outcomes, such as dropping out of school and lower academic achievement.

Experts also find lower socioeconomic status is associated with higher levels of absenteeism.

The median annual earnings of adults ages 25 through 34 who had not completed high school were lower than the earnings of those with higher levels of educational attainment, according to data from the Census Bureau’s 2017 Current Population Survey.

The unemployment rate for high school dropouts was 13% compared to the 7% unemployment rate of those whose highest level of education was high school.

Society also pays a price when students drop out of school. During his or her lifetime, the average high school dropout cost the economy approximately $272,000 compared to individuals who complete high school, the National Center for Education Statistics reported. That’s thanks to “lower tax contributions, higher reliance on Medicaid and Medicare, higher rates of criminal activity, and higher reliance on welfare.”

Illinoisans – whether taxpayers, parents, educators or leaders – face problems from the high absenteeism and poor proficiency rates plaguing the state’s schoolchildren, especially low-income schoolchildren. The students themselves face much greater risks than just bad grades from missing too much school.

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