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Chicago Public Schools Announces First Day Attendance Rates for the 2021-22 School Year

22 September 2021

Data Demonstrates that Unprecedented Outreach Efforts Impacted First-Day Attendance

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
Twitter: @chipubschools
Facebook: chicagopublicschools

CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced that despite ongoing concerns regarding the Covid delta variant, more than 91 percent of students attended the first day of in-person classes -- a slight decrease of nearly 3 percent compared to the 2019-2020 school year, when classes were last held in-person. This is the first time students started the school year prior to Labor Day weekend in more than a decade.

“Our top priority over the summer was to re-engage families and ensure they had what they needed for the new school year,” said Interim CPS CEO Dr. José M. Torres. “With the switch to full in-person learning and the start of the school year before Labor Day, the district launched an unprecedented outreach effort and contacted tens of thousands of students. The district is so grateful to the many CPS employees, school-based staff, volunteers and community partners who helped engage students and ensure they had critical information leading up to the first day.”   

Historical Comparison First Day of School Attendance Rate: 

  • 2021-22 School Year: 91.2 percent (first day of school before Labor Day)

  • 2020-21 School Year: 84.2 percent (remote learning)

  • 2019-20 School Year: 94.2 percent 

  • 2018-19 School Year: 94.5 percent 

  • 2017-18 School Year: 94.7 percent 

  • 2016-17 School Year: 93.9 percent 

  • *2013-2014 School Year: 93.5 percent (last time CPS began classes before Labor Day)

CPS will outline official enrollment data in the coming days, following the 20th day milestone. 

This year, the district re-launched traditional in-person back-to-school events, while also undertaking an unprecedented outreach effort to ensure families were informed, prepared and aware of protocols ahead of the 2021-22 school year. As part of these efforts, thousands of CPS employees, community based organizations, and parent volunteers successfully connected with or visited the homes of more than 85,000 of students, with contact attempts for nearly all students in the highest-needs categories. The district also launched a robust community engagement, marketing and communications effort to ensure parents were aware of the first day of school (which began before Labor Day) and had important information about protocols and resources.

“Our efforts to support students are just getting started and beyond the first day, we’re providing additional support to students in need through the landmark Moving Forward Together initiative,” said Interim CPS Chief Education Officer Dr. Maurice Swinney. “I’m so proud of the CPS family for coming together to support students through unprecedented outreach over the summer, and we are bringing that energy, passion and momentum to our efforts to support students throughout the school year.” 

Personalized Approach to Support Those Most in Need:

To ensure that outreach was tailored to the needs of each of our students and school communities, the district utilized the Student Prioritization Index (SPI). The SPI is a holistic, data based, metric that helped schools and the district identify which students needed the greatest level of support. The prioritization index looks at data in the areas of student engagement, academic performance, and social emotional need, as well as community-based factors, including COVID-19 case rates.

Group of Students Intervention(s)

Outreach Outcomes

Universal Supports — All Students

— Back to school Marketing & Communications

— School based communications 

CPS executed a robust communications strategy that included both email communications and social media. 

Between July 15 and the first day of school, the district sent out more than 3 million emails to families, and the district’s back to school content received more than 1.6 million impressions across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Targeted Supports — Approximately 85,000 Students 

— CBO Canvassing 

— Parent Volunteer, School-based and Central Office Phone Banking 

— Back to school marketing campaign (targeted areas)

Nearly all students had one or more contact attempts, with approximately 80 percent of students in this category with a confirmed contact. 

One-on-One Supports — 18,000 students 

Offers intensive support for students facing the greatest challenges to getting to school, such as: 

— Community Based Organization Home Visits 

—  School staff home visits

Nearly all students had one or more contact attempts, with approximately 70 percent of students in this category with a confirmed contact. 

Summer Engagement Highlights:

  • Utilizing Safe Passage Workers to Support Outreach: The district enlisted dedicated Safe Passage employees to support engagement outreach efforts to families:

    • Made more than 16,400 home visit attempts.

    • Engaged more than 5,500 families at their homes.

    • Handed out more than 100,000 flyers with critical information. 

  • Calls to Families:

    • Calls to Families: Thousands of CPS central office staff members, school-based staff members and parent volunteers called nearly 55,000 families leading up to the new school year and during the first couple of days of school. 

    • Parent Outreach Ambassadors: More than 173 parents participated in our re-engagement efforts through direct parent-to-parent outreach calls to CPS families. 

  • Central Office Support: Approximately 650 central office staff members were deployed to support schools once it began.

  • Supporting Families Who Called the Hotline: On average, the district supported  approximately 300 parent calls on a daily basis through the Healthy Hotline in August.

Parent Resources & Community Events:

  • Back to School Bashes: Held 10 Back-to-school Bashes across the city — bringing together more than 13,000 families, providing vaccination, important information, resources and more. 

  • Community Festivals: CPS partnered with more than 30 partners in community-led festivals including, Fiesta del Sol, the Bud Billiken Parade, On the Block series, BPNC Streets Play, Far South Peace Rally, Englewood Stomp, Fiesta Boricua, and more.

  • Backpacks & Supply Bags: Through various events, distributed more than 40,000 backpacks and supply bags. 

  • Town Halls: Virtual Back-to-School Town Halls were attended by more than 1,000 parents. 

  • Parent Leader Walkthroughs: Parent Advisory Council leaders conducted walkthroughs of CPS buildings to help describe the protocols to other families. 

Reaching Families Through Marketing & Digital Efforts:

  • CPS launched an effort aimed at helping students and families to get ready in advance of the first day of school, which included:

    • Placed TV, newspaper, digital display ads, radio, and paid social media ads in English and Spanish across multiple platforms and outlets. 

    • Placed digital billboard ads in high-traffic areas on the highway and transit platforms citywide, including CTA ads buses and trains.

    • Sent weekly marketing packages to principals with emails, social media posts, web page content and other marketing material for them to distribute using school level outreach tools. 

    • Posters, flyers, magnets, and postcards were distributed by CPS, sister agencies and community partners at service locations and summer events. 

    • Direct mail postcards were sent to families in high priority outreach tiers.

Looking Ahead: Ongoing Efforts to Engage Families

While intensive efforts were undertaken this summer, outreach efforts are still needed to further engage and support students. Over the coming weeks, schools will continue efforts in an attempt to reach all families and offer supportive services. The district will continue to use the SPI in order to ensure students with the greatest needs are being supported. As presented at the August Board of Education meeting, the district is currently implementing Phase III of our re-engagement plan, which includes the following: 

Group of Students



Classroom Community Building

— Additional positions at schools 

— Ongoing marketing campaigns

— Return to School SEL Toolkit 


— School Phone Banking

— Central Office Phone Banking 

— Targeted marketing campaigns 

— SEL groups 

OST programming


— Individual Mentoring

— Outside Agency Referral(s) 

— Community Based Organization Home 

— Visits School staff home visits

Chicago Public Schools serves 341,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.