1. How much did students’ grades in spring 2020 and spring 2021 differ from grades during pre-pandemic years?
1A. How much did rates of no-credit grades in spring 2020 and spring 2021 differ from rates of no-credit grades during pre-pandemic years?
2. How much did rates of no-credit grades during remote learning/ hybrid learning differ by schools and by student background characteristics?
How much did students’ grades in spring 2020 and spring 2021 differ from grades during pre-pandemic years? We used course grades data for students in grades 4-12 in Chicago Public Schools in spring 2020 and spring 2021, and compared them to course grades in spring terms from 2017–19. This study also considered differences in the proportion of grades that were Fs or, in spring 2020, Incompletes—including for different student groups and school serving higher percentages of student groups (i.e., students with different races/ethnicities, genders, free or reduced-price lunch statuses, English learner statuses, housing statuses, and prior test scores).
This report’s findings are particularly notable for two reasons. The first is that educators, families, and students themselves raised concerns about students’ ability to engage in remote learning. They noted challenges around access to technology, digital literacy, consistent attendance, and motivation, especially for students in communities with high rates of illness, greater job risks or insecurity among parents/guardians, and other stressors that made remote learning more difficult. Yet, strong grades data indicate that most students were able to continue their engagement in school despite these challenges. The second is that the widely-reported test score data pointing to unfinished learning is important—but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
- High school students earned more As (by 8-10 percentage points) during remote and hybrid learning than in pre-pandemic years.
- Most of the improvement was among students who had been earning Bs before the pandemic started.
- Failure rates were fairly comparable to pre-pandemic years.,
- More students in grades 4-8 failed classes than pre-pandemic (21 percent in 2021 vs. 11 percent 2017-19), but two-thirds of their grades were still As and Bs.
- Some elementary schools had very high failure rates during remote learning, even compared to similar schools.