Education in Illinois
Access to quality early childhood services affords children a strong start and helps close persistent achievement gaps to ensure that every student is college- and career-ready. Overall, Illinois is serving roughly 50% of its birth to 5-year-old children from low-income families. When you break out just 3- and 4-year-olds, we are doing a better job-supporting about 84% of 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income homes with state- or federally funded preschool seats. However, as you can see from the chart to the right, access varies significantly across the state.
Some parts of the state have more seats than needed; others are provider deserts with more need than seats. These are communities where children are being left behind.
Kindergarten readiness is vital to meeting future academic benchmarks. And for the first time, Illinois has access to kindergarten readiness data. Overall, fewer than a quarter of Illinois' students enter kindergarten socially and academically ready, and across the state we see dramatic variations in readiness.
Illinois ranks among the top 10 states in academic growth between 3rd and 8th grade. However, statewide, 3rd-8th grade growth varies quite a bit. It is encouraging to see 40 percent of districts outperforming the national average in reading proficiency. Some districts show growth despite the odds relative to their funding adequacy.
Today, 49 percent of Illinois' 2 million schoolchildren come from low-income households. Changes in our state demographics have led to an increase in the need for additional student support services across the state, not just in Chicago and other urban centers, but in districts occupying the farthest reaches of our state. In the map, we can see that most districts in the state now have significant populations of students from low-income households. Indeed, over the last ten years, the number of school districts with more than 35 percent of students living in poverty rose from 306 to 554.
In general, high school graduation rates are relatively high across the state, and a majority of districts exceed the state average of 85 percent. That said, numerous districts throughout the state have a ways to go to reach the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate.
Statewide, nearly half (46 percent) of first-year Illinois community college students are enrolled in remedial, non-credit bearing coursework. Students whose high school and postsecondary environments place them in remedial coursework face additional costs and a more difficult path to graduation. This map shows the percent of each districts' high school graduates who are enrolled in remedial courses at Illinois community colleges. Districts with higher rates of remediation are illustrated in deeper red. High remediation rates demonstrate a potential disconnect between what is taught in high school and what is expected of students in postsecondary, and shines a spotlight on the need for non-remediation strategies to address this issue.