Key Questions

1. What is the relationship between students' attendance and GPA in the elementary grades, and their future academic outcomes?


2. How does this relationship differ for students from different race/ethnicity or gender groups?


The elementary and middle years give educators a profound opportunity to impact students’ long-term outcomes: in our research, students with strong grades and attendance in elementary school were more likely to graduate high school and enroll in college than their peers.  Although some Chicago Public Schools (CPS) elementary schools use CPS’s existing Elementary On-Track (EOT) indicator to identify and intervene with students, the practices around this indicator are still emerging, and there is an opportunity to accelerate on-track work in elementary schools. In this research report, we offer a simplified version of CPS’s EOT metric that we call the “Condensed Elementary On-Track” (Condensed EOT).  In order to be on-track in our Condensed EOT indicator system, students in grades 3-8 need to have:

  • At least a 3.0 GPA and
  • At least 90 percent attendance

Key Findings

  • Students in grades 3-8 in the On-Track category graduated high school at more than twice the rate of students in the Intensive Support category (93 percent vs. 39 percent) and enrolled in college at more than four times the rate of students in the Intensive Support category (72 percent vs. 16 percent).
  • Students in the Academic Support category, who came to school regularly yet were still not earning a 3.0 GPA, made up nearly 40 percent of students in the 2018–19 school year. These students’ academic struggles persisted beyond the middle grades: only 17 percent had earned a 3.0 or higher at high school graduation and only 20 percent enrolled in four-year colleges.
  • Black and Latinx students were less likely than their peers to be in the On-Track category. And within each race/ethnicity group, boys were less likely to be on-track than girls.

Click below to view a 90-second episode of GO FIGURE, with Alexandra Usher explaining Figure 8 of this research (February 6, 2024).