In March 2013, School Districts 65 and 202 participated in the Illinois 5 Essentials Survey of Learning Conditions. The survey was administered by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to parents and teachers and to students who were in sixth grade and above. The survey was developed by researchers at the Consortium of Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the University of Chicago.

Last summer ISBE provided to each school the raw data summarizing the survey responses of teachers, parents and students at that school. ISBE also provided an analysis of the responses, said Sue Schultz, Assistant Superintendent of District 65 at a District 65 School Board meeting on Dec. 2. She said, though, that ISBE decided to pull back the analyses of the data. It also pulled back the raw data summarizing the parents’ responses to the survey.

In commenting on why the analyses were pulled back, Assistant Superintendent Ellen Fogelberg said, “There was a great deal of controversy around the comparisons that were made based on using the Chicago schools. That’s why it was recalled.”

ISBE said it decided not to publish the analyses until next year to give educators and school leaders a chance to familiarize themselves with the surveys, to allow ISBE time to explore the relationship between the survey results and school outcomes statewide, and to give researchers a chance to review all survey questions for their applicability statewide.

ISBE said the reports analyze the data using a scoring process developed by CCSR that ensures accuracy and reliability. The scoring method allows schools to compare results from one year to the next and to make comparisons within and between school districts, says ISBE.

Even though it decided not to release analyses of the survey data, ISBE says “the raw survey responses themselves contain valuable information that can be useful for school and district staff and the public.”

The accompanying table provides students’ responses to selected questions about whether they feel they are being challenged in the classroom. In order to present the data in a manageable way, the RoundTable reports a combined total of the responses “most of the time” and “all of the time.” ISBE cautions that combining response categories in this fashion obscures statistically significant distinctions that might appear if the responses to “most of the time” and “all of the time” were separately reported. For readers who are interested, a full breakdown of the data is available on ISBE’s website.

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...