UEI's 5Essentials School Improvement Tool Adopted Statewide

UEI's 5Essentials Survey adopted for statewide assessment of school performance

For Immediate Release 
Contact: Mary Ann Fergus
Illinois State Board of Education

Contact: Seong-Ah Cho
University of Chicago
Urban Education Institute

January 28, 2013—Schools across Illinois will use University of Chicago research to identify ways they can improve, as part of a new program announced by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The board selected the Illinois 5Essentials Survey—created by the Urban Education Institute’s UChicago Impact arm—to highlight concrete steps schools can take to improve student outcomes.

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey is based on 20 years of research conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. That research showed that these factors contribute to strong schools: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, a supportive school environment and ambitious instruction.

UEI developed the survey to help schools benefit from that research and to catalyze reforms. With the Illinois 5Essentials Survey rollout, more than 4,000 U.S. schools will adopt the school improvement tool. The Illinois State Board’s decision represents one of the broadest commitments to the 5Essentials Survey to date.

“For every educator and parent of every public school child in the State of Illinois to have good, actionable information about their schools is a significant step forward,” said Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of UEI. “The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute is thrilled to work in partnership with the governor, the state superintendent and each school district across the state to provide tools that help school communities focus on what matters most.”

UChicago Impact, which provides empirically based tools and supporting services to schools across the nation, is working with the board of education to make the online survey accessible to the state’s nearly 4,000 schools so they can better identify their strengths and areas that need improvement.

“As educators, we have long understood that test scores alone do not represent the full scope of school life and learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “The Illinois 5Essentials Survey will finally help us paint that fuller picture of learning conditions, and guide local and state improvement initiatives so that every student has access to a world-class education.”

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey (Organizing Schools for Improvement) asks about leadership, collaboration, family involvement, instruction and the school environment and will be administered between Feb. 1 and the end of March to all certified K-12 teachers and students in grades six to 12 across the state. As part of the first statewide survey, Gov. Pat Quinn has declared Friday, Feb. 15 “Illinois 5Essentials Day” and encourages all schools to move forward with administering the survey during the month of February, the first of the two-month administration window.

“I urge Illinois teachers and students to take 15 minutes for this unique opportunity to share their insights,” Quinn said. “Teachers are on the front lines and students are our most important stakeholders; their first-hand impressions of school conditions are essential to learning what works and what needs improvement.”

Quinn noted that strong participation is needed to develop a school-level report; at least 50 percent of students and teachers at each school must fill out the survey. The approximately 15-minute-long survey provides a comprehensive assessment of school organizational culture with reports to help drive school improvement on the five indicators or “essentials.

5Essentials generates data that helps schools target resources and make decisions that can accelerate learning and test score gains. 5Essentials also demonstrates that teachers and students can play a crucial role in school reform: What they share about their schools reliably predicts whether those schools are likely to improve or stagnate.

The research on 5Essentials was conducted in more than 400 schools, including Chicago Public Schools and showed the 5Essentials to be strongly predictive of school improvement. The 5Essentials were identified in a seminal 2010 book, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, by Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton.

Schools strong in three to five of the essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools that are weak in three to five, the authors found. Those differences remain true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender, and neighborhood characteristics. Strength on components within the essentials also correlates with increased teacher retention, student attendance, college enrollment, and high school graduation.

In addition to being used in CPS, a version of the 5Essentials survey has been administered in schools in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Indiana.

“This survey was eye opening and is already making a difference,” said Kimberly Capron, an instructional specialist at Wayne Elementary School in Detroit Public Schools. “It really generates baseline data to help us figure out where we’re at and what changes need to take place. It’s not a punitive or a `gotcha’ exercise but has truly led to some positive changes.”

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey, required to be implemented this school year by Senate Bill 7, passed in 2011, represents Illinois’ first effort to administer a statewide survey of learning conditions to teachers and students. Statewide summary results will be shared with the Illinois State Board of Education this summer, and school-level results will be sent to schools this summer as well. Results also will be part of the 2013 school report cards, typically released by state board at the end of October. Federal Race to the Top funds are covering the survey costs.

During this inaugural year, districts have the option of asking parents to participate in the survey. The Illinois State Board of Education is considering requiring parental participation in the 2013-14 school year. While this survey may help inform state policy and improvement initiatives, it is primarily intended to help schools at the local level identify strengths and areas that need improvement, and provide more comprehensive information about each school for parents and community members.

For more information please visit: https://illinois.5-essentials.org