The 20 Worst Schools In Illinois Today

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The 20 Worst Schools In Illinois Today

The great state of Illinois is known for many exciting things. There’s a lot of great culture and tons of fun to be had for kids and adults alike. Plus, the state has some of the best hotels in the country. However, in some cases, the educational situation could use some help. While there are some good schools in the state, they’re not all top-notch. Today, we’ll be talking about the worst schools in Illinois. 

How We Score

When we talk about these schools, we gauge them based on several metrics. For elementary and middle schools, we look at test scores, student progress, equity, and other factors. When we talk about high schools, we look at those stats, but we also look at how the schools prepare the students for college or life after they graduate. We’ll also fit other metrics in there as well. When we score colleges, we’ll mostly look at graduation rates, since that’s one of the most significant factors for how well the students at the school perform and if the school is providing the tools the students need to succeed. NOTE: While we take these metrics from different sources, many of the factors on this list come from GreatSchools.org.

Worst Schools in Illinois: Elementary Schools

When it comes to your child’s education, there are few areas as important as elementary school. For many students, this is one of their first introductions into proper education, so they need to start off on the right foot. If they fall behind now, they’ll likely stay behind as the other students go forward. While many elementary schools in Illinois are top-notch, these miss the mark.

Perry Elementary School

Located within the Community Unit School District 300 in Carpentersville, Perry Elementary School starts off our list. The issues here are related to test scores, student progress, and equity. According to GreatSchools, the students at this institution are making far less academic progress than other students in the state and compared to where they were in the previous years. The test scores in essential classes, such as math and English, are below expectations. The averages are at 2%, which is poor when compared to the 28-30% state average. 

While test scores and student progress are down all around at this school, there are also areas of improvement for underserved students. There are low test scores for those with disabilities, and low-income students are also doing relatively poorly. 

Amongst other issues, all of this data may be tied to the teaching. While 100% of the teachers are certified, only 69% of them have three years of experience or more. While they’re likely fine teachers, they just don’t have the experience that they may need to get the students to the next level. The teachers are also only paid about $35,000 on average compared to the $61,000 state average, which may indicate some motivation factors.

Penniman Elementary School

This next school is located in Cahokia Heights and it’s part of Cahokia Community Unit School District 187. There are also some issues with student progress here as, like with the previous school, the students are falling far behind other students in the state. On average, the students here have very low test scores, with a 1% proficiency average in subjects like English and math. 

According to GreatSchools, many of the underserved students at this school are falling even further behind other students in the state. Many times, these students need more support, and they may not be getting it. Another equity issue is that students with disabilities are either suspended or chronically absent at an alarming rate. It’s terrible when any student is suspended because it means that they are missing time in school and can easily fall behind. 

As far as the teaching is concerned, the teachers here are getting paid more than the state average. However, while 100% of them are certified, only 76% of them have three years of experience or more. However, the average class has a student-to-teacher ratio of 17:1, which is higher than the state average of 14:1. That means that many students may not be getting the individualized attention that they require.

Mckinley Elementary School

Located within the Bellwood School District 88 in Bellwood, Illinois, this school is the final elementary school we’ll mention. This school has many of the same issues as the other two institutions, especially when it comes to test scores and student progress. The students are also falling behind other students in the state, and although the test scores in English are slightly above the other schools, they’re still under 5% proficiency. 

There are also issues here when it comes to suspension and chronic absenteeism (absent 15 days or more) for both students with disabilities and those without disabilities. The percentages for these factors are above 20%, which is not good. The suspension rates are very high for black students, which is concerning. It can mean that they’re not getting the attention in school that they deserve.

On the bright side, the teaching here is fairly good. While the teachers are being paid less than the state average, 100% of them are certified, and 87% of them have three years of experience or more. Also, there’s a fairly good student-to-teacher ratio of 13:1.  

Worst Schools in Illinois: Middle School

Group of Teenage Students Collaborating on Project in Classroom
Moms, always do your research before enrolling your children into a new school.


A positive experience in middle school is also essential because it means that the students are keeping up a positive momentum. Many middle schools in Illinois are doing a great job of serving the kids, but the schools below need some help. 

Stephen Decatur Middle School

This middle school is part of the Decatur School District 61, in Decatur, Illinois. We also gauge the middle schools on student progress, test scores, and equity, and this one is falling behind expectations. The students are falling well behind other students in the state, and they’re making less academic progress. 

Student test scores are falling well below the stage average. Most of the students are not performing at grade level, and they’re falling well below the state average. There are also some shortcomings when it comes to advanced courses. While students in middle school don’t need to be experts in math, there’s only a 25% participation rate in classes like Algebra 1. On the bright side, 98% of students are passing the class, but many aren’t taking it in the first place, which doesn’t bode well for future college participation.

As far as equity, there are issues for underserved students who are falling behind their fellow students when it comes to overall progress and test scores. There are also very concerning suspension rates of minority students, including Black and Hispanic students, and those who are two or more races. Finally, students with disabilities are suspended and are chronically absent more often than the students that aren’t considered disabled. 

Kennedy Middle School

Kennedy Middle School is in Rockford, Illinois, in Rockford School District 205. Like the other schools, the disappointment in this institution revolves around test scores, student progress, and equity. The students are making far less academic progress compared to how they were doing the year previous. They’re also falling behind other students in the state. 

The test scores here are low, with less than 1% of students performing at grade level in subjects like math and English. As far as the advanced courses, there’s only a 29% participation rate. Those that are taking the class have a 67% pass rate. 

On the equity front, low-income and other underserved students are doing poorly in their classes and when compared to the other students in the school. There are also very alarming rates for suspension and chronic absence. The percentage of suspension for students with disabilities is up to 77%, compared to the state average of 7%. Chronic absenteeism is at 79%, compared to 24% for the state. 

Miguel Juarez Middle School

Finally, in Waukegan, Illinois, there's Miguel Juarez Middle School, which shares many of the same issues as the other schools in this category. The test scores are far below other students in the state and the students are making far less academic progress than where they were last year. Less than 5% of students are performing at grade level in basic classes of math and English. Also, though there’s a 83% pass rate in advanced courses like Algebra 1, there's only a participation rate of 19%.

There are many of the same equity problems, with low-income students performing worse than other students in the school, which indicates some achievement gaps. Students with disabilities are also suspended and are chronically absent more often than those without disabilities. 

This school also has some issues on the teaching front. While 95% of teachers are certified, and 91% have three years of experience or more, teachers are making only $33,000 on average compared to the $61,000 state average. That may indicate some issues with motivation.

Worst Schools in Illinois: High School

High school kids looking to teacher sitting at their desk
In addition to ensuring that kids get good grades, high schools also need to prepare the students for the next phase of thier life, but not all high schools are created equal.

©Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

The high school category is extra special because it’s essential that students excel during these years. It’s during this time that students need to learn everything they can so they can excel in college or during their work life after school. That’s why, in this section, we’ll also gauge how the schools prepare the students for the next stage.

Arcola High School

Located in Arcola, Illinois, this Arcola Community Unit District 306 school is about average in college readiness, but it’s below expectations when it comes to test scores and student progress. Per GreatSchools.org, the students at this school are making “far less” academic progress compared to where they were last year and when compared to other students in the state. 

Test scores are relatively low here in basic classes like math and English. They’re below the averages of the state. It makes sense then that there are very few students taking the advanced courses that can help them thrive in college. Very few students are taking AP math, science, and algebra. 

However, there is a 4-year graduation rate of 92%, which is above the state average of 87%. With that said, the lack of advanced courses hurts the kids down the line. The average ACT score is 20, which is below the minimum of 21 that many colleges look for when selecting applicants. 

Porta High School

This school is in Petersburg, Illinois, and it’s part of the Porta Community Unit School District 202. This school has rankings of “below average” for many different metrics, including on test scores, student progress, college readiness, and equity. There's a 4-year graduation rate of 76%, and some of that is due to poor proficiency in basic classes, including math and English. There’s also poor participation in advanced courses, like AP math and science. The participation rates are lower than the state average. 

Only 57% of the graduates have any interest in pursuing college or a vocational program, which is below the state average. Those who take the ACT do okay, with an average score of 22, which is just above the average of 21 that many schools look for when looking at applicants. However, the lack of advanced courses doesn’t help when trying to get into college. 

There are also issues with equity here, as underserved students do worse than the other students when it comes to college readiness, test scores, and student progress. 

Seymour High School

Our final high school is this one out of Payson, Illinois. This school, which is part of Payson Community Unit School District 1, has low marks for test scores and student progress. According to GreatSchools.org, the students here are making far less progress than other students in the state. 

The good news is that the school has a 4-year graduation rate of 93%, which is above the state average. Also, the students that take the ACT, do get an average score of 22, which is above the average of 21. However, only 32% of students say that they plan to pursue college or vocational school, which could indicate that the teachers and staff aren’t providing the necessary support. Another issue is that there’s less than a 1% participation rate in advanced classes, including AP math and science. Test scores are also low for regular classes, including English and math.

There is also an equity issue here as underserved and low-income students are not doing as well as the other students when it comes to college readiness, test scores, and student progress. The other sad fact at this school is that the teachers are only being paid an average of $33,000, which is low compared to the state average of $61,000.

Worst Colleges in Illinois

When we rank the worst colleges in a state, we tend to focus on those with the worst graduation rates. Students may not graduate because they don’t get the support they need, they may find that the teaching is lacking, or they could just feel like the school costs more than it should. Whatever the reason, it’s not good. These are some of the schools with the poorest graduation rates in Illinois, according to CollegeSimply.com

  • University of Phoenix Chicago Campus – 7.4% Graduation Rate
  • East West University – 9.2% Graduation Rate
  • Triton College – 11.4% Graduation Rate
  • Chicago State University – 14.3% Graduation Rate
  • MacCormac College – 14.9% Graduation Rate
  • Prairie State College – 14.5% Graduation Rate
  • Oakton Community College – 16.9% Graduation Rate
  • Parkland College – 17.5% Graduation Rate
  • College of Lake County – 20.9% Graduation Rate
  • Northwestern College – 23% Graduation Rate

One college that typically finds itself on the list of the worst colleges in Illinois is DeVry University. In addition to its poor 21% graduation rate, the school is also expensive, which puts the students in debt. The real problem is that the online classes are impersonal, and the students don’t get their money’s worth.


This concludes our list of the worst schools in Illinois. This is not a comprehensive list, but it highlights some of the poorly performing institutions in the state. There are other schools with poor scores, and there are also others in the state that have great reviews. If you’re a parent of a student, do your research and find the best school for their needs.

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