Is the State’s
Education System
On Track?


Key Academic Milestones



Illinois has set an ambitious target: 60% of working adults will hold a college degree or credential by 2025, as research suggests that at least 60% of jobs will require some type of educational credential past high school. Today, only 50% of the state’s working adults hold college credentials. How can we get to where we need to be?

The State We’re In 2016-2017 takes a snapshot of our state’s education systems—early education, K-12 and higher education—with a focus on progress toward the 60 by 25 goal. Reaching the 60 by 25 goal will require expanding current strategies, identifying new strategies and holding ourselves accountable for results on the milestones to college and career success. The State We’re In also highlights promising practices that could be replicated, or scaled up, to accelerate the state’s progress toward 60 by 25. With a combination of state action and local effort, we can achieve this goal. The metrics and projections we offer help Illinois more clearly envision a day when every child has a fair shot at completing a degree or credential that leads to a productive career.

Kindergarten Readiness

Many but not all children come to kindergarten ready to learn. Yet we don’t know how we’re doing because the state is still developing the data tools. However, research has long shown the benefit of high-quality pre-kindergarten programs for later academic success,1 especially for low-income students. Measuring access to pre-kindergarten programs shows how we are doing in setting children on track for kindergarten readiness.

4th Grade Reading

At 4th grade, students must be able to move from “learning to read” to “reading to learn” other subject areas. Today, when we look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the so-called “Nation’s Report Card”) only 35% of 4th graders are reading at proficiency. Illinois ranks 30th nationally, while 50% of 4th graders are reading proficient in the best state (Massachusetts).

8th Grade Math

As early as 8th grade, math scores correlate with ACT scores three years later. To ensure students are ready for college, the number of 8th grade students who are proficient in math must grow from the 32% that it is today. Illinois ranks 29th in 8th grade math proficiency, while Massachusetts leads the nation with a rate of 51%.

College Readiness

The ACT is frequently used as one measure of whether students are ready for college. Today, only 38% of Illinois high school graduates met college-ready standards on the ACT; in Minnesota, which leads the nation, 54% of graduates met college-ready standards.

Postsecondary Enrollment

To state the obvious, students must enroll and persist in a postsecondary program if they are to complete one. We estimate that today only 64% of 9th graders complete high school and enroll directly in a postsecondary program.2

Postsecondary completion

A gulf exists between postsecondary enrollment and postsecondary completion. While 64% of 9th graders enroll, only 28% of them will complete their program within six years at any school—even accounting for those who transfer to a different school to finish.2

60 by 25

Today, half of Illinois adults hold a postsecondary degree or credential. Reaching 60% by 2025 will require movement at every step, beginning with preparing children for kindergarten.

We track a larger data set throughout this website, including many metrics focused on the conditions of teaching and learning across the state, that helps tell if we are on track for these key milestones.

Achieving 60 By 25


How Much Does Illinois Need To Improve To Reach 60 by 25?

The short answer is that we need to make more progress in the next 10 years than we have in the past 10 years. That means we will need to do better at each of the key academic milestones. We looked at what it will take and set interim targets to show where Illinois needs to be in 2020 and in 2025.3 In each and every milestone we have to improve by three to as much as seven percentage points to be on track for 2025. That means thousands more children need to be reading at grade level by 4th grade, performing math at an 8th grade level, showing college readiness and enrolling in and completing a postsecondary program. And it means thousands more of our at-risk students will need resources and support to ensure they are on-track. Simply put, if we don’t do what it takes to accelerate our progress, we will fall short of meeting the state’s 60 by 25 goal and leave many students behind.

Throughout this report we show you what it will take to accelerate our progress and meet the challenges that Illinois faces.


The Challenges Are Even Greater For Low-Income Students

Low-income students are often behind their wealthier peers when they begin kindergarten and too often remain behind throughout their academic careers. We must do more at every step to change this pattern.

How are we doing against the 60 by 25 goal?

Historical Performance Equity
2014 2012 2010 2004 Leading State Leading State's
IL Rank Rank Change White Black Latino Low-Income
49D Students aspiring to an associate's degree or higher 79% 80% MS 91% 13/13 0
53 18-24 year olds out of school and out of work 14% 15% 13% 13% NH 8% 19 1 10% 34% 15% 20%
47D Adult undergraduate enrollment as a percentage of possible population
47E Adults 25-39 undergraduate enrollment as a percentage of possible population
48B Adults undergraduate degrees as a percentage of possible population 1% 1% AZ 3% 19 2
48C Adults 25-39 undergraduate degrees as a percentage of possible population 3% 3% AZ 7% 19 2
49B Adults 25-34 with a associate's degree or higher 48% 47% 43% MA 56% 57% 29% 25%
49C Adults 25-64 with an associate's degree or higher 44% 42% 41% MA 53 50% 30% 20%

For more information, including a snapshot of every school in Illinois, visit the Illinois School Report Card.