Younger learners in Illinois showed major declines in English language arts and math on end-of-the-year exams, revealing the toll the pandemic may have taken on students, according to newly released state data.

Initial data from Illinois Assessment of Readiness and SAT shows the number of students overall meeting the state’s learning standards dropped 17.8% in math and 16.6% in English language arts. Declines were sharpest in third and fourth grades. Third grade scores, for example, fell 8 percentage points in English language arts from 2019 to 2021 and math scores fell 9.6 percentage points. Officials said that translated to 22% fewer third graders meeting grade-level standards in English language arts and nearly 24% fewer third graders meeting those standards in math.

On the SAT, the number of 11th graders reaching proficiency declined 7.7% on the English portion of the test and 14% in math.

When the data was separated by groups — students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and English language learners — the declines were more pronounced. The number of English language learners who met grade level standards fell by half, with younger students being hit the hardest. English language learners currently make up 12.9% of the state’s student population.

Read the full article about pandemic education by Samantha Smylie at Chalkbeat.