PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The Ilinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has released its annual report card, highlighting recovery from pandemic learning loss.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor JB Pritzker said there was no shortage of challenges that the state’s teachers and students faced.

“Some students were falling behind in their learning goals, some students had suffered insurmountable grief and trauma,” Pritzker said.

Despite the interruptions, education leaders said Illinois students are exceeding expectations.

“One year into our recovery efforts, we’re definitely on the right track,” said Carmen Ayala, superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education.

Thursday, the Illinois State Board of Education released its yearly snapshot of public school performance.

Some highlights of the 2022 state report card include increased student growth in English language arts and math across all demographics, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

Illinois students also recorded an 87.3 graduation rate, the highest in 12 years. “Largely driven by black and Hispanic students,” Pritzker said.

In the new report card, 56 percent of Peoria Public Schools are designated commendable or higher, compared to 39 percent pre-pandemic.

“I am very proud of the work of my staff, parents, and community. We are bringing our students closer to their full potential by re-imagining literacy, mathematics, SEL, high school graduation, attendance, freshmen on track, career pathways, advanced learning, and much more. We have come a long way,” Peoria Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat.

While Illinois still faces challenges, Pritzker said the state is heading in the right direction.

“Nobody is suggesting the report card is perfect, it is not. But it is an indicator of directionally, things are getting better and accelerating in a way that I think is unexpected as compared to many other states,” Pritzker said.

The report card also found that 30% of students missed 17 or more days of school due to excused or unexcused absences. ISBE has dedicated $12 million through a new state-funded grant to combat chronic absenteeism.