Its follow-up report says that North Lanarkshire, the fourth most deprived council area in Scotland, has made "significant progress" in addressing the main points of action identified by the inspectorate two years ago.
These included reducing overcapacity in schools and improving repairs and maintenance.
Published this week, the report states: "Since the inspection report in February 2003, the authority had strengthened many aspects of provision. It continued to demonstrate a capacity for improvement. It has strengthened its teams of officers who supported and challenged schools and was now working to improve the consistency in the quality of their work."
The report added that curricular initiatives under way at the time of the initial inspection had been sustained and a range of new initiatives were addressing local and national priorities. "The education department had developed a number of new approaches to raising pupil achievement, in particular, in the arts, music and sport," HMIE says.
It adds that, while attainment was improving, the education department needed to continue to focus on raising attainment, especially from S3 to S6.
Michael O'Neill, director of education, said: "Rather than rest on our laurels, HMIE agree that we have been continually improving and building on our already excellent programmes and performance. The inspectors' praise of our performance was glowing."