Academic Achievement

Student performance in Illinois is middling. The state ranks near the national average in the percentage of 4th and 8th graders who score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading and math exams.

Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

Illinois earns a low grade on academic achievement for low-income and minority students. Only 16% of low-income 4th graders score at or above the proficient level on the NAEP reading exam.

Return on Investment

Student achievement in Illinois is low relative to state spending after controlling for cost of living. 

Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

Illinois posts below average marks on the credibility of its student proficiency scores. The grade is based on the difference between the percentage of students identified as proficient in reading and math on the 2011 state exams and the percentage identified as proficient on the 2011 NAEP reading and math tests.

Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

Illinois earns a high grade preparing its students for college and careers. Twenty-two students out of 100 pass an AP exam, and the high school graduation rate is above the national average. 

21st Century Teacher Force

Illinois does an average job of creating a strong teacher workforce. The Prairie State is adept at removing ineffective teachers but weak at retaining effective ones. 

Parental Options

Illinois does an average job providing parents with strong school choice options and has a mediocre charter school law. 

Data Quality

Illinois earns an average grade collecting and reporting high-quality education data. The state provides funding for a longitudinal data system but lacks sufficient capacity for the data to be used and analyzed by educators.


Illinois receives a very poor grade employing technology to provide quality instruction and personalized learning. The state does not provide sufficient high-quality digital learning options for students.

International Competitiveness

Illinois earns an average grade preparing its students to compete in a global economy, with a relatively high number of students passing an AP exam in STEM or a foreign language, but below the national average for students proficient in reading and math compared with an international standard.  

Fiscal Responsibility

Illinois receives very low marks on fiscal responsibility. Only 40% of the state’s pension is funded, and its most recent pension contribution was 76%.