A Report on Public
Education in Illinois
Fellow Illinoisans,

We share a common goal, and that is for our children to succeed in school and life. Indeed, we believe one leads to the other.

We have important progress to celebrate. Over the past decade, Illinois has posted academic gains and exceeded national norms in some key areas. We’ve narrowed performance gaps between Latinx* students—the state’s fastest-growing population—and their white peers. And higher percentages of students are enrolling in postsecondary and earning degrees. Such gains demonstrate our ability to make true, lasting improvements. Indeed, some districts have made strides despite high poverty levels and inadequate funding, underscoring again that real change is possible.

But the hard truth is that our schools do not serve all schoolchildren equally well. Too many students are learning in schools and districts with limited social supports, poor access to critical data and research, and/or a disconnect between their needs and the teaching force available. And while we have made slow, steady progress, it will take more than that to narrow the academic divide that has, historically, shortchanged students who require more support to thrive.

The world that awaits today’s students will demand more of them. By 2025, 70 percent of jobs in Illinois will require a college degree or industry certification.1 While there are fewer young adults who are out of school and out of work, it will take more effort to address workforce shortages, including in our own teacher ranks.

From preschool to postsecondary, lack of funding and affordability are critical barriers for low-income residents. This is troubling because early education determines outcomes in later school years, and postsecondary attainment remains key to employment and a living wage. If we lose students early, we risk losing them entirely. And if we fail to support postsecondary success, we damage the economic prospects of our students and our state.

That said, Illinois is positioned to build upon past work. A new K–12 school funding formula drives more resources to the students and schools that need them most. State data provides a more complete picture than ever before of where students achieve at higher, faster rates and where they do not. We need accurate data and equitable resources, a diverse workforce, and safe and supportive school environments where all students can succeed if we’re to close these performance gaps that are as persistent as they are pernicious.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to improve outcomes and opportunities for all.


*Latinx describes a person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).
The 2019 edition of The State We’re In measures Illinois’ educational performance from early childhood through postsecondary. It tracks how our students have performed over the past decade and how that performance compares with students in other states. We know that improvement doesn’t happen overnight. By tracking student outcomes over time, we can refine our strategies to support them.
About this report

We invite you to explore our complete set of data metrics, including those focused on the conditions of teaching and learning. Those conditions lay the foundation for student achievement.

What data is provided?

To assess how well Illinois educates its students, we track roughly 80 metrics grouped into three categories: early education, K–12, and postsecondary. These metrics not only assess student learning outcomes but also measure learning conditions, leading indicators for student growth. Data for each metric shows:

  • Current performance
  • Past performance
  • Leading states and Illinois’ comparative national rank where available
  • Equity gaps by race and ethnic origin, as well as income status where available

Advance Illinois has chosen to present certain metrics where data is currently unavailable. We do this in order to highlight what education stakeholders need to know going forward to strengthen schools and improve student learning.

Overall Rankings

To put Illinois’ performance in the context of our nation, we rank how well our state’s early childhood, K–12 education, and postsecondary systems serve our students relative to other states. For each of these three systems, overall rankings are provided for learning conditions, student learning outcomes, and equity in student learning outcomes.

Overall rankings are composite measures of the individual metrics in the data tables that fall into each category (e.g., early childhood learning conditions). Equity in student outcomes is defined as the gaps in performance by race and income, where available.2 Each ranking is on a scale of 1 to 50, with 1 being the highest and 50 being the lowest. A “not available” is assigned if data are insufficient to form a ranking.

Regional analysis

While analyzing statewide data is vital to assess the quality and strength of our educational system, it doesn’t tell the full story about our students. Regional analyses and comparisons are essential to understanding variations in progress and outcomes. For the first time, Advance Illinois has created a regional analysis insert with district-level data and online interactive maps and charts to support these important conversations.

Executive Summary
Where does Illinois stand on the steps to readiness?
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Illinois Landscape
As Illinois grows more diverse with increased need, adequate funding and supports are essential. We have made progress in some areas and fallen short in others.
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Early Childhood
Illinois must significantly expand access to quality early childhood programs if we hope to increase kindergarten readiness, eliminate achievement gaps, and improve education outcomes.
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Despite notable student growth, more work remains to ensure all students graduate college- and career-ready.
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Postsecondary is a game changer. We must address challenges in preparation, enrollment, and completion to ensure all students thrive.
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Regional analysis
A new regional supplement shedding light on local outcomes and progress.
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Data tables / Metric definitions
A collection of metrics providing more information about learning conditions, student outcomes, and equity.
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