Chicago’s chronic school absences hit Hispanic students hard

Chicago’s chronic school absences hit Hispanic students hard

Absenteeism rates among Hispanic students in Chicago Public Schools are chronically high. Proficiency in reading and math is low.

Chicago Public Schools is experiencing an influx of Hispanic students, up nearly 2,000 in a district that just ended an 11-year enrollment slide.

But statistics suggest 2-in-5 of these students will miss 18 or more school days. In the 2022-2023 school year, 40% of Hispanic students were chronically absent.

Chronic absenteeism “skyrocketed during the pandemic” across Illinois public schools and remained high in 2023. But absenteeism among Hispanic students is especially high compared to all students in Chicago.

High absenteeism is a warning sign for students, as research suggests frequent absences from school put students at a higher risk of poor outcomes, such as dropping out of school and lower academic achievement.

Already, many Hispanic students lag their peers when it comes to proficiency and graduation rates. Missing school threatens to push them even farther behind.

Chronic absenteeism among Chicago’s Hispanic students

Chronic absenteeism is determined by missing 10% or more of school days per year either with or without a valid excuse. That means 2-in-5 Hispanic students missed 18 or more days of school.

Chronic absenteeism rose during and after the pandemic and many districts have struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, chronic absenteeism was 22% for Hispanic CPS students, meaning chronic absenteeism has nearly doubled since the pandemic.

Low proficiency among Chicago’s Hispanic students

In addition to Hispanic students’ high rates of absenteeism in CPS, only 22% of Hispanic students in third through eighth grade were proficient in reading and 13% in math in the 2022-2023 school year.

For 11th grade Hispanic students, 18% could read at grade level and 15% were proficient in math.

Hispanic students trail the district proficiency rate by four percentage points in both reading and math.

Chronic absenteeism highest among Hispanic, Black students

Chronic absenteeism is also high among Black students in CPS, and it was significantly higher than the rates among white and Asian students.

About 46% of Black Chicago students were chronically absent, higher than the 40% rate among Hispanic students. That is compared to 27% of white students and 21% of Asian students, who registered the lowest rate of absenteeism.

Absenteeism increases risk for poor outcomes

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.

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.”

As CPS continues to enroll more Hispanic students, it is vital for the district to engage these students and ensure their academic success.

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

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