Research on Education Strategies to
Advance Recovery and Turnaround
Student Engagement in Learning during COVID-19: Students’ Course Grades in Chicago Public Schools
From the report: 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 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.