Illinois has more graduates but with lower scores, fewer heading to college

Illinois has more graduates but with lower scores, fewer heading to college

Illinois is in the minority of states graduating a higher percentage of students during the first two years of the pandemic. But state data shows those high school students’ SAT scores are dropping and a smaller percentage are immediately continuing onto higher education.

A higher rate of Illinois high school students has graduated since the pandemic, but with lower SAT scores and fewer of them headed to college soon after getting their diplomas.

Illinois is one of 20 states to increase its public school graduation rate during the first two years of the pandemic, based on an analysis of 44 responding states’ data by the EdWeek Research Center. The graduation rate in Illinois continued to increase in 2022.

Yet 11% fewer students graduating from Illinois public high schools are enrolling in U.S. colleges within the first 12 to 16 months after graduating, compared to 2019. The percent of high school students who met proficiency standards has fallen in both reading and math since 2019 as students record poorer performances on the SAT.

Illinois graduation rate increases

Graduation rates in Illinois have fluctuated since the onset of the pandemic. Overall, there has been a slight increase in Illinois’ graduation rate since 2019, the final graduation year prior to the pandemic.

Illinois’ four-year graduation rate increased to 87.3% in 2022, marking a 1.1 percentage point increase since 2019. In 2022, 260 Illinois school districts had a higher graduation rate than the statewide average, with 11 districts reporting a 100% graduation rate.

The graduation rate in 2020 was the highest in the past four years. The State Board of Education and Gov. J.B. Pritzker made adjustments to graduation requirements for the class of 2020 because in-person instruction was suspended at the end of the 2020 school year.

College enrollment and SAT performance drops

The percentage of students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities within 12 or 16 months of graduating from Illinois public high schools has decreased by 11% since 2019. In 2022, the percentage of graduates enrolling within 12 months was 64.3%. In 2019, 72.5% enrolled in postsecondary education within a year.

The drop in postsecondary enrollment could be thanks to reasons beyond college preparedness, such as the high cost of tuition or choosing trade work as an alternative to higher education. Illinoisans pay the fourth-highest college tuition in the nation and the highest in the Midwest. Plus, the trade, transportation and utilities industry experienced a 1.77% increase in job growth between January 2019 and January 2023, with the construction industry experiencing a 2.68% increase.

SAT scores for Illinois public school students have also dropped since 2019. The state tests 11th grade students with the SAT to measure the percentage of high schoolers meeting proficiency. In 2022, the percent of students meeting proficiency on the SAT had dropped to nearly 30% in reading and 29% in math. That represents a 2% drop in reading and nearly 5% drop in math.

In April 2022, Illinois 11th grade students scored on average 486.4 on the reading portion of the SAT and 473.8 on math. This marked an 11- and 23-point drop since 2019, the last full test year before the pandemic.

See how your school district compares to state average

You can view your school district’s average four-year graduation rate and postsecondary enrollment rates below and see how your district’s average matches up against the statewide average.

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