Mission & History

Founded in 2008, Advance Illinois believes all kids deserve a quality education. We are an independent policy and advocacy organization that works toward a healthy public education system that prepares students to achieve success in college, career and civic life. We are committed to an aligned education system that strives for equity, stresses college and career readiness and completion, and supports the whole child from the earliest years through adulthood.


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.

What we do

Developing data-informed policies to support student success

Build leadership, community partnerships and coalitions of advocates

Elevate the education narrative with the goal of furthering equity

Objectives and accomplishments

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.