Launches First-of-its-kind Award Celebrating Schools with Positive, Supportive Learning Environments

452 Illinois public schools earn inaugural “Thrive Award” that offers new look at school quality

OAKLAND, CA (August 16, 2021), the leading provider of school information, today announced 452 Illinois schools — 66% of which serve a high population of students from low-income families — as recipients of its inaugural Thrive Award. The first-of-its-kind award recognizes and celebrates public schools in Illinois that demonstrate positive, supportive learning environments for students and staff.

The data-driven award is given to schools that complete and score favorably on the Illinois State Board of Education’s annual 5Essentials Survey, completed by students and staff at the state’s public schools. Survey results provide an overview of a school’s climate — information that’s important for families to understand but not easy to find.

Following GreatSchools’ 2020 update to its rating methodology to emphasize equity and elevate student growth, this award marks another important milestone in the organization’s goal to present a richer picture of school quality for parents that goes beyond test scores.

“Our goal has always been to provide parents access to vital educational information that will help them find the right school for their child,” said GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane. “The Thrive Award delivers a unique opportunity for parents to gain a broader understanding of what makes a school great — and visualize what happens inside the building when they drop their child off each day. By easily accessing this information, we hope Illinois parents will feel more connected to their child’s school and, most importantly, more confident to advocate for their child’s needs.”

Illinois parents can now browse profiles of the state’s public elementary, middle, and high schools in English and Spanish to see whether schools in their area won the Thrive Award and view 5Essentials Survey data across five categories: leadership, teaching culture, academics, family engagement, and learning environment.

A local parent organization noted the importance of accessing this information to understand more about their child’s learning environment and the degree to which a school values strong family engagement.

“All parents want their children to have a positive learning environment that makes them feel safe, challenged, and supported,” said Illinois Parent Teacher Association President Carolyn McCarty. “Family engagement is a critical component of this vision, as parents are key partners in helping students learn. Understanding how schools value parent input and participation is incredibly useful for families as they strive to support a school’s mission and aspirations of success for all students.”

The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research has validated the effectiveness of the 5Essentials Survey in promoting positive student outcomes. Though the survey has been administered to over 6,000 schools in 22 states, Illinois schools were selected to receive the inaugural Thrive Award because of the Illinois State Board of Education’s transparent data policy that makes this critical school information publicly available.

Learn more about the significance of the Thrive Award and its methodology.

 (1)  The 2021 Thrive Award winners were determined based on 2019 5Essentials Survey data from the Illinois State Board of Education, which represented the most recently available data set at the time of collection and analysis. A total of 1,644 Illinois schools lacked 5Essentials Survey data from this source year, which indicates either the school did not complete the 5Essentials Survey or student and teacher response rates were too low to qualify for award analysis.


About GreatSchools:
GreatSchools is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents with essential information to improve educational opportunities for their child. We are the only national organization that collects and analyzes data from all 51 state departments of education and the federal government to provide analysis, insights, and school quality ratings for parents, partners, researchers, and policymakers. Over 46 million users visit GreatSchools’ award-winning website annually to learn about schools in their area, explore research insights, and access thousands of free, evidence-based parenting resources to support their child’s learning and well-being. Learn more at and join us on Twitter and Facebook.


GreatSchools is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents with essential information to improve educational opportunities for their child. GreatSchools’ trusted ratings and school quality information help parents find the right school for their family and take action to improve schools in their communities. Thousands of articles, tips and interactive tools help parents support their child’s learning and well-being every day. Families, community leaders and policymakers turn to GreatSchools for the school information they need to guide children to great futures.