District 202 Director of Research, Evaluation and Assessment Judith Levinson told the School Board on Feb. 11 how the District will comply with a new State of Illinois requirement to administer a survey to students, teachers and parents that is designed to provide information about “learning conditions and school climate.” 

Known as the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, the survey represents Illinois’ first effort to administer a statewide survey of learning conditions to teachers and students.

This new initiative, piloted in some Chicago public schools, has now been expanded to the entire state, encompassing 6 -12th grade students and all teachers.  Districts can also opt to survey parents, which D202 has chosen to do.

Dr. Levinson reported that “the State Board has joined with the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute to provide an online survey, called the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, to help the state’s nearly 4,000 schools better identify their strengths and areas needing improvement.”

Dr. Levinson said the survey, which “asks about leadership, collaboration, family involvement, instruction and the school environment,” will be administered sometime before the end of March.

Parents will be informed about the survey by email, at parent conferences and in a letter in the same mailing containing grades.  Parents may choose to opt their student out of the survey.

Because all students take physical education, administrators have arranged for students to take the 30-minute, web-based, confidential survey during their PE class.  The survey for teachers and parents will take less time and can be accessed online.

Each district will be able to access reports about their survey data, as long as at least 50 percent of students and teachers and 30 percent of parents participate.

According to a statement by State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch, which Dr. Levinson provided to the Board, the survey provides a comprehensive assessment of school organizational culture with reports to help drive school improvement on the “essentials”: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment and ambitious instruction.  

In addition, Superintendent Koch said, “5Essentials generates data that helps schools target resources and make decisions that help accelerate learning and test score gains. The surveys also demonstrate 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.”

Board member Deborah Graham asked how Evanston Township High School will use the data.

“There will be data reflection sheets that will be shared with administrators and leadership,” said Dr. Levinson. “We’ll use it, but we have no control over this data – it’s whatever their system is and how they disaggregate it.” Dr. Levinson said there are “no questions about race” on the survey but there is “some grade-level data.  We’ll see how the data comes back to us,” she said.

Board member Gretchen Livingston said the District had done its own survey in the past and wondered whether it would be repeated.  She expressed a strong interest in surveying parents about issues related to the school calendar.  

“I think we should take note of it [the state survey],” said Dr. Levinson.  “We were hoping it would be a good survey and serve our purposes. … Our feeling is … ‘Let’s try it see how it is and possibly include the other kinds of questions later.’”

Board member Jonathan Baum said he was very pleased that the District had opted to survey parents.  He asked about confidentiality.

Dr. Levinson responded that the District never sees the input on the survey, but would only get the reports from the state and the University of Chicago, so confidentiality should not be an issue.

More information is available at https://illinois.5-essentials.org/ about the survey.