RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — New data from the State of Illinois found that Rantoul City Schools is seeing the benefits of the districts’ recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic, with improvement in both literacy and attendance.

The Illinois school report card, released on Monday, found that for the first time, Rantoul’s performance in literacy on the Illinois Assessment of Readiness is exceeding its pre-pandemic performance. The district saw a 63% increase in literacy proficiency scores this year over last year. For comparison, the statewide average in literacy improvement is 17.6%.

“We are thrilled to see the improvement in our schools, but we expect all of our students to meet proficiency standards,” said Superintendent Scott Woods. “Until that happens, we must continue to work hard to meet and exceed the needs of our exceptionally diverse students and build RCS into the community of learners it can be.”

In addition, the school district also saw chronic absenteeism fall by more than 28%. Chronic absenteeism – when a student misses at least 10% of the school year – reached an all-time high of nearly half of students in 2021.

“Students attending school regularly is directly tied to our teachers being able to improve student learning,” said Heather Jacobs, principal of J.W. Eater Junior High School. “Our students have to be in school to learn, and we see that connection in the improvement in our literacy scores.”

Jacobs’ school saw some of the biggest improvement in the school district.

All of the schools saw growth in their Overall Index Scores that exceeded the threshold for being rated “Commendable,” the second-highest ranking in the state that measures a school’s progress in academic performance and student success. Three of the district’s five schools were rated Commendable, but two were not because certain subgroups of students failed to meet the threshold index score.

“Larger districts, with more diverse student populations, have more subgroups,” Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Frerichs explained. “These districts, like RCS, have more hurdles to overcome to attain the higher ratings because every subgroup must hit the target.”

Broadmeadow, Eastlawn and Pleasant Acres were rated as Commendable in the state’s report card, the latter of which moved up from Targeted. The district attributed this to increased student growth in literacy and math.

J.W. Eater was rated as Targeted while Northview was rated one ranking below that at Comprehensive. None of the schools were rated Exemplary or Intensive, the highest and lowest rankings, respectively.