Mission & History

Motivated by the urgency that Illinois was not preparing its students to compete in a global marketplace, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, and the Boston Consulting Group collaborated to launch a nonpartisan education policy advocacy organization for the state, modeled on successful efforts elsewhere. Leaders from more than a dozen civic, philanthropic, business and education organizations from across the state came together to found Advance Illinois in 2008 to serve as an independent, objective and bipartisan voice promoting a healthy public education system that prepares all students for success in college, career and civic life.

What we do

Advance Illinois is equity-driven, student-centered, data-focused and connected to community and educators. We identify, design and advocate for policies that are tailored to the needs of students in Illinois. We approach our work by:

Developing high-impact policies geared toward improving student success and reaching the state’s goal of having 60 percent of Illinois adults holding a college or career credential by 2025 (“60 by 25”).

Engaging thought leaders, legislators, and policymakers and facilitating action on behalf of Illinois’ students–based on what research tells us works.

Building coalitions of communities and educators to influence public opinion and decision makers to do what it takes to provide a high-quality education for all children, no matter where they live.

Presenting the challenges and opportunities facing Illinois’ public education system through policy briefs and local storytelling to inspire the participation of education stakeholders and the public.

Objectives and accomplishments

Advance Illinois is positioned uniquely in Illinois to provide the continuity required to successfully pass, implement and evaluate policy change. Advance Illinois outlined its agenda in 2009 with three overarching objectives; below we highlight a few accomplishments toward each objective:

Recruit, develop and empower the most effective educators
Advance Illinois has taken steps toward improving educator effectiveness by developing a more meaningful teacher evaluation system and a more comprehensive measure of teacher performance to improve instruction. Advance Illinois helped raise the minimum test score needed to enter a teaching program and continues to work toward fostering the recruitment of high-quality teaching candidates.

To strengthen principal leadership, Advance Illinois developed and helped pass legislation in 2010 that tightened requirements for principal certification. The legislation increased the minimum teaching experience of principals from two to four years and specified that principal preparation programs focus on critical skills such as the ability to support and manage instruction.

Set world-class expectations and provide essential supports

Advance Illinois was the architect of a five-year campaign alongside superintendents, teachers, parents, civil rights leaders and other advocates that resulted in the enactment of a new, more equitable school funding formula. The landmark legislation passed in 2017 will drive resources to the students who need it most and put Illinois on a path to equitable and adequate school funding.

Advance Illinois supported Illinois’ adoption of rigorous new learning standards to better prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed for college and careers, and a new state assessments that more honestly show students’ progress toward college and careers.

Through the passage of legislation in 2016, students in Illinois will have the opportunity to take a high school transitional math class that reduces the likelihood of remediation in college, saving precious financial resources for meaningful classes.

Empower local innovation in exchange for accountability and results

The new Illinois School Report Card puts relevant data in the hands of families and educators in an easy-to-understand, interactive format for every school in the state. The Illinois School Report Card was cited as an exemplar by the Education Commission of the States in 2014.

Advance Illinois led efforts to establish a new longitudinal data system for Illinois that shows students’ academic progress from birth to postsecondary success. Information systems now generate data needed for state leaders to make smart policy decisions and measure the impact of recent education reforms.

Advance Illinois has established public-private partnerships in more than a dozen communities in the state, inspiring business leaders, schools and other stakeholders toward improving student outcomes.