While Illinois may be known for Abraham Lincoln's history, “The Windy City,” and deep-dish pizza, did you also know that it's home to several large school districts?
Illinois comes in at #12 on U.S. News and World Report's national education rankings. And as the home to Chicago, the third-largest city in the country, educational opportunities are plentiful in The Prairie State. In fact, some of the best schools in Illinois make this midwestern state not only an excellent place to live but also a great place to receive a quality education.
Let's dive in to learn more about eight of the largest school districts in the scenic state of Illinois.
Chicago Public Schools
42 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60602
Total Number of Schools: 634
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 323,291 in the 2023-2024 school year
Covering the largest city in the state and the third largest city in the country is Chicago Public Schools. This district is by far the largest in the state with over 300,000 enrolled students and more than 600 schools, including charter, contract, and SAFE schools. This system has seen a large increase in graduation rates as well. Their website states that the district's 4-year high school graduation rate has nearly doubled over the past two decades.
CPS also employs more than 45,000 people, giving them a lower than the national average student-to-teacher ratio of 15:1. Additionally, the district has numerous initiatives to improve both the school systems in the city and the community around them. The district encourages parent involvement and key strategies to improve their education efforts.
355 E Chicago St, Elgin, IL 60120
Total Number of Schools: 55
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 35,864
Also known as simply “U-46,” Elgin Area School District U46 is the second largest school district in the state. This district is ranked in the top 25 most diverse school districts in Illinois according to Niche with 95 languages spoken within the district. It also covers 90 square miles within Chicago's Northwest suburbs, spanning 11 different communities.
U46 is well known for its Dual Language Program that has served its English Language learners who make up nearly 40% of the student population. This program allows many of the students in the district to be fluent in both English and Spanish. U46 also has a lower student-to-teacher ratio, matching CPS at 15:1.
Rockford Public Schools
501 7th St., Rockford, IL 61104
Total Number of Schools: 41
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 27,664
Ranking as the seventh most diverse school district in Illinois according to Niche is Rockford Public Schools. RPS serves 70 different languages spoken throughout the district and employs over 4,000 people, making it the second-largest employer in the region. The district also has 6 special programs and 14 college and career academy pathway options.
The student-to-teacher ratio is 17:1, making it higher than the previous two districts discussed above. While RPS doesn't have the highest reading and math proficiency ratings, it continues to focus on the 4 C's: Continuous improvement, collaboration, communication, and character. Additionally, the district has an early childhood program that enrolls over 2,000 students.
Indian Prairie School District 204
780 Shoreline Drive, Aurora, IL 60504
Total Number of Schools: 34
Total Number of Students Enrolled: About 26,000
Indian Prairie School District 204 covers more than 600 acres and serves students in Aurora, Bolingbrook, Plainfield, and Naperville. IPSD encompasses DuPage and Will counties with one preschool, twenty-on elementary schools, seven middle schools, three high schools, and one alternative high school.
The student-to-teacher ratio is also very low at 14:1, and IPSD is ranked the thirteenth best school district in the state of Illinois by Niche. It also ranks in the top 25 places for teachers to work in the state. With above-average proficiency scoring and an average graduation rate of 96%, IPSD is one of the more successful districts in Illinois.
Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202
15732 Howard St., Plainfield, IL 60544
Total Number of Schools: 31
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 24,904
As the second-best school district in Will County according to Niche, Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 is located in the southwest Chicago suburbs. The district itself covers a 64-square-mile area and enrolls students from Bolingbrook, Crest Hill, Joliet, Lockport, Naperville, Plainfield, and Romeoville.
The district also serves 94 different languages and employs over 3,000 people. 1,663 of those employees are teachers making the student-to-teacher ratio 15:1. Additionally, Plainfield SD202's students have an average SAT score of 984, which is above the state average of 959.
2550 Harnish Drive, Algonquin, IL 60102
Total Number of Schools: 26
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 20,293
Community Unit School District No. 300, also known simply as District 300, enrolls roughly 20,000 students through its 26 different schools. The district also has a 96% graduation rate and has 3 of its schools ranked as “exemplary” by the Illinois Department of Education, as well as 21 schools ranked “commendable.”
The student-to-teacher ratio is also well below the national average at 14:1. Additionally, the district offers numerous academic programs including AVID, career and technical education, pathway programs, and a dual language program. District 300 also has 5 distinct goals in its strategic plan, including developing the whole child and using district resources equitably and efficiently.
203 West Hillside Road, Naperville, IL 60540
Total Number of Schools: 23
Total Number of Students Enrolled: 16,955
Coming in as the second-best school district for athletes in Illinois, as well as the tenth-best school district throughout the state as a whole is Naperville Community School District No. 203, otherwise known simply as, Naperville 203. This district is on par with other large districts listed here with a graduation rate of 96%.
The student-to-teacher ratio is 16:1, with 84% of the staff owning master's degrees. The mission of the district is to produce students who are self-directed learners, collaborative workers, complex thinkers, quality producers, and community contributors. Naperville 203 is also known for its student meal program, serving 1.2 million meals each year.
Oswego Community Unit School District 308
4175 Route 71, Oswego, IL 60543
Total Number of Schools: 22
Total Number of Students Enrolled: Over 16,000
Oswego Community Unit School District 308 is ranked as the best school district in Kendall County by Niche. The district is also the largest Kendall County employer with more than 3,000 employees, 1,090 of those being teachers. In fact, Oswego SD 308 has a 91% teacher retention rate, and 30 of its teachers are nationally board certified.
The average class size is 24 with a student-to-teacher ratio of 15:1. Additionally, the school boasts a 96% graduation rate with more than 1,000 taking early college courses in high school and over 3,000 enrolled in CTE courses in high school. 13.2% of students are also assessed for giftedness with 53 gifted-endorsed teachers on staff as well.
While Illinois may be known for far more than its educational options, it's clear that these large school districts have a lot to offer their students. From educational opportunities to athletics, fine arts, and specialized programs, every student is sure to find their fit in one of the massive school districts in this state.
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