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Using data to improve educational outcomes in Illinois: The Illinois Interactive Report Cards Office

March 10, 2021

We know that getting a high-quality education is one of the best ways to improve one’s life by nearly every measure. Those with college degrees earn more money, have greater job security, volunteer more, donate more to charities and vote more regularly. However, policy makers, educators and families often struggle to make sense of the information available about K-12 schools, community colleges and universities. What percentage of graduates from a given high school go on to earn college degrees or enter promising career fields? How well do Illinois schools serve all of the state’s diverse residents? What degrees or credentials help prepare graduates to make a positive difference in their own lives and their communities?

A little over two decades ago, a group of NIU faculty came together to begin answering some of these questions. They created the Illinois Report Card (IRC) – one of the first statewide K-12 data reporting systems in the U.S. – and the IRC has been a model for best practices in data visualization and access ever since.

Since 2002, the Illinois Interactive Report Cards Office (IIRC) has been part of the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development (OERD) and has supported OERD’s mission to create meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships between the university and other stakeholders. The mission of IIRC is to serve the public by empowering students, families and educators to improve their academic outcomes and level of college and career readiness, and to create opportunities for NIU faculty, staff and students to partner in this mission, applying their expertise for the public good.

Recently, the IIRC has expanded its reach by developing Illinois Postsecondary Profiles (IPP) – a reporting system that provides a wealth of data about community colleges, universities and professional training schools across the state. Together, the IRC and IPP provide comprehensive information about education in Illinois from childhood through early career. These resources enable educators, state and local leaders, students and families to gather the information they need to make informed decisions about education.

The Illinois Interactive Report Cards Office has built long-term relationships with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE), which provide the funding and data for the two websites. IIRC applies the latest cutting-edge data technology to collect and manage data from these and other agencies, and to share the data in meaningful ways through custom interfaces.

Along with other OERD initiatives, such as the Illinois P-20 Network, the IIRC helps us measure our collective progress toward the state’s goal of ensuring that 60% of Illinois residents have high quality degrees and credentials by the year 2025.

“We’re proud of the lasting partnerships we’ve built with ISBE and other state agencies,” says Alan Clemens, Director of the Illinois Interactive Report Cards Office.  “IIRC’s mission is twofold – to provide services that impact the success of students across Illinois, and to provide rich research opportunities for NIU faculty, staff and students as a part of that work. We’re so excited to have major initiatives underway in both of those areas, working with the new NIU Research and Data Collaborative internally and building ground-breaking new data systems for the State of Illinois.  It’s inspiring to be a part of these deep relationships evolving to facilitate the success of the next generation of Illinois graduates.”

Learn more on our website, and take a few minutes to browse the data available on and