ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Students’ proficiency in English and math is on the rise but still not quite above pre pandemic levels. That’s based on the Illinois State Board of Education’s annual report card giving a snapshot of how schools and districts across the state are performing in certain educational areas.

“We certainly could always want to see a greater growth than what you saw this year, but this was significant growth, specifically in English language arts,” Dr. Tony Sanders, the State Superintendent of Education, said in a call with reporters about the report card.

The report card outlines an increase of English proficiency by 16% since last year. Four percent more students were proficient in math as well.

Dr. Tony Sanders, the State Superintendent of Education, said these numbers indicate a strong recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted many students’ education.

“Although we still have quite a distance to travel, educators and families should be proud of the remarkable progress we see on the 2023 Illinois report card,” Sanders said.

State officials noted Black students in particular made significant learning gains. Sanders attributes the change to the Evidence Based Funding formula, a 2017 law that gives more money to underfunded schools each year.

“We live for years under a system of funding that was really one of the most inequitable in the country,” Sanders said. “And now we have one, that for the last several years has directed resources to the districts and the students who need it the most.”

Data in the report shows that the high school graduation rate is more than 87%, a 13 year high.

The report also found more of the state’s ninth graders are on track to graduate. Jennifer Gill, the Springfield School District 186 Superintendent, says the district has created a pilot program to make sure more students get their diplomas.

“Oftentimes students’ attendance was the number one determination that why they weren’t on track,” Gill said. “Others, they had social emotional learning needs and things that we needed to support them in looking at them as a whole student, not just a test score.”

The retention of teachers across the state is at 90.2% percent, the highest it’s ever been.

There are still some major problems from the pandemic still remaining for schools. Chronic absenteeism still remains high, well after schools have returned to the classroom. 30% of students in Illinois missed more than 17 days of school last year.

The days students have to miss school to be considered chronically absent include sick days. COVID-19 quarantine rules still apply, so if a student tests positive for the virus, they are asked to stay home for five days which adds to that total.

State officials are trying to find ways that lower that number for the next report card.

“To continue to address absenteeism we have to establish, reestablish strong relationships with parents and families,” Sanders said. “We have to make the case for the value of school and the value of attendance every day.”

To find the report of a specific school in Illinois, you can visit the state board of education’s website.