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Chicago Public Schools Announces First Day Attendance Rates

11 September 2020

Parent and Community Outreach Effort Helped Encourage 84.2 Percent Attendance During Remote Learning On First Day of School 

CPS Office of Communications

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

CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today announced that 84.2 percent of students at district schools attended remote learning classes on the first day of school on Tuesday, September 8, 2020, a number that is the result of months of hard work on behalf of CPS employees to engage and encourage CPS families to take the important steps of preparing themselves for a return to school via remote learning. Attendance rates have steadily increased throughout the week, starting with 84.2 percent on September 8, 88.5 percent on September 9 and 90.2  percent on September 10. 

The overwhelming majority of our students showed up ready and eager to learn on the first day of school, and I am so proud of our staff and school communities who have been working tirelessly over the summer to ensure families had what they need to log-in on day one, said CPS CEO, Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “While our first day attendance rate is lower than in-person school comparisons due to challenges related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, I am encouraged by our outreach efforts, which will remain ongoing as we work to ensure families have what they need to participate in remote learning.”

Over the summer, schools have gone above and beyond to ensure families have access to the resources and information they need for a successful start to the school year remotely; a full school-by-school spreadsheet of first day attendance rates at district-operated schools can be found here.

This year, in place of traditional in-person back-to-school events, CPS launched an unprecedented outreach effort to ensure families were informed and prepared for an improved remote learning experience to kick off the 2020-21 school year. As part of these efforts, hundreds of CPS employees called nearly 21,000 of our highest-needs students, schools distributed thousands of devices, the district created critical parent resources, and a robust marketing and communications effort was undertaken to raise awareness of the new school year. Notable back-to-school outreach efforts include: 

All Hands on Deck: Personalized Family Outreach

  • Individual Outreach to Priority Students: The district launched an effort to individually reach out to families with the highest-needs, including students in temporary living situations (STLS), students transitioning to high school, and court-involved youth.
    • More than 150 CPS central office staff members and nearly 800 school-based staff members called nearly 21,000 families leading up to the new school year and during the first couple of days of school. 
  • Utilizing Bus Aides and Safe Passage Workers to Support Outreach: The district enlisted dedicated bus aides and Safe Passage employees to support outreach efforts to families this week. 
    • Bus aides have made over 5,000 calls to families.  
    • Safe Passage Workers engaged over 7,500 families in their communities and handed out more than 19,000 flyers with critical information. 
  • Supporting Families Who Called the Hotline: On average, the district supported 600 parent calls on a daily basis through the parent helpline in August.

Efforts to Get Families Logged on From Day One

  • Internet: More than 30,000 students have been enrolled in Chicago Connected as of September 10, which will provide access to free high-speed internet for up to four years.
  • Devices: The district is committed to ensuring every student who needs a device receives one. Last school year, the district distributed more than 128,000 devices, and as of September 10, the district distributed more than 32,000 devices for the fall. 
  • Text Messages, Robocalls, and Emails: The district sent emails and robocalls to all CPS families to remind them about the first day. Families who had not claimed their digital accounts received direct digital outreach from the district with detailed login information.

Launching Critical Parent Resources

  • Parent-Facing Website: The district launched — a one-stop-shop parent resource that centralizes important information related to the school year.
  • Google Trainings: CPS partnered with Google Education to launch a series of real-time virtual trainings in both English and Spanish to help parents become more comfortable with the Google Education Suite, with on-demand training videos and guides available to supplement training. 
    • As of September 10, the district held six training sessions in English in Spanish that were attended by more than 6,800 families. The district will be holding 10 additional training sessions throughout the fall, with sessions available online for families to access. 

Providing Families with Important Information

  • CPS launched “Get Connected Week!” aimed at helping students and families get connected and ready to log-on in advance of the first day of school, which included parent communications, social media, marketing, and paid media, including:
    • Radio, digital and paid social media ads on four iHeart Radio stations and three Univision Chicago stations in English and Spanish. 
    • Engaged the Chicago Blackhawks and other stakeholders to promote a first day of school.

Looking Ahead: Ongoing Efforts to Engage Families

While the district is encouraged by the first day attendance rate, ongoing outreach efforts are still needed to reach and engage students. Over the coming days and weeks, schools will continue to attempt to reach all families through phone calls and digital outreach, and continue to distribute devices and connect families with needed resources.

Beginning next week, many schools will begin to implement an At-Home Learning Ambassador Strategy, which is a measure to get in touch with students who schools have not been able to reach through other efforts. As part of this strategy, school principals will utilize security officers who are provisioned for home visits to provide outreach to students who have not responded to any of the other outreach efforts. Security officers have built relationships with their students and are well suited to serve in this role. All CPS security officers were trained on how to conduct home visits in preparation for returning to school.

Historical Comparison First Day of School Attendance Rate: While challenges related to COVID-19 impacted the district’s first day attendance rate compared to prior years, intensive outreach efforts over the summer led to an overwhelming majority of students logging on during the first day of remote learning.

  • 2020-21 School Year: 84.2 percent
  • 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