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 Paul Goren, superintendent of School District 65, told Board members at their Oct. 6 meeting that the educational research being done around the 5Essentials is “really seminal work in the world of education research” because it connects to practice. “When we have the opportunities to connect to practice, we should be dancing in the street.”

The 5Essentials are based on extensive studies of Chicago schools by researchers with the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago and reported in their book, “Organizing Schools for Improvement.” They found there are five essential components for school success: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, a student-centered learning climate and ambitious instruction. 

What their longitudinal study found was that schools that measured strong in three or more of the 5Essentials were 10 times more likely to improve student achievement than schools weak in three of more of the 5Essentials.

The Illinois State Board of Education has retained UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago to administer the 5Essentials survey to teachers, parents and students (grades 6-12) to gather input on the five essential components for each school and each school district in the State. 

Dr. Goren said District 65 has entered into a partnership with colleagues at UChicago Impact to provide supports in using and analyzing the survey data and in developing strategies on how to best use it to improve outcomes for students.

“We’re excited to be part of this seminal work,” said Dr. Goren. “We’ve built a really special relationship with the University of Chicago, where we’re learning from them and they’re learning from us.”

The D65/UChicago Impact partnership

John Gasko, chief executive officer of UChicago Impact, Elliot Ransom, director of 5Essentials, and Alex Seeskin, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, laid out their approach at the Oct. 6 Board meeting.

Mr. Ransom said research on the 5Essentials dates back to the 1990s. He said the researchers were able to validate the 5Essentials framework through longitudinal studies.

He said, “We all know that the components of the 5Essentials matter, that they make a difference to schooling our students and the outcomes they are able to achieve.” This is “not a new recipe,” he added, stating, “The power, however, comes into play when you can measure them in a reliable and valid manner and specifically when you can use a student and teacher voice as the source of data to help you measure those.

He explained how school administrators can dig down into the 5Essential survey data to examine performance in each of the five components, including trends over time.

Mr. Seeskin said the UChicago Impact team helps schools analyze the data and “helps them identify root causes to answer the question why is your data low in a certain area, why is it high in a certain area. …”

Once the root causes have been identified, he said, the UChicago Impact team helps schools to assess what new actions should be taken, which could be changing behavior in the schools, or if results are showing a positive trend, to “double-down” to enhance the results.

After that, “We work with them to assess their progress and see where they may need to make adjustments,” said Mr. Seeskin.

Maria Allison, chief strategy officer of District 65, said the UChicago Impact team will provide District 65 with a range of supports including support for all principals in how to use the 5Essential survey results, intense working sessions and coaching sessions with leadership teams at five schools, consultation with administrators at the District level around the use of the 5Essentials, and analytical input on 15-16 survey results

Dr. Ransom said, “We can help shine the spotlight on overarching trends, overarching hot spots to help inform strategic decision-making at the District level.  

Dr. Gasko said the Chancellor of New York City’s public school system, the largest in the nation, is organizing around the 5Essentials, “so I think the work is taking hold across the country in very diverse areas. We’re excited about more and more schools having the opportunity to use this to really improve capacity and drive the outcomes they all seek.”

“One of the reasons we selected Evanston was we’re looking for what we call champion networks or models that can inform this work across the country,” continued Dr. Gasko. “We want to both provide you the best we have to offer and at the same time learn from you so we can provide that learning across the country.”

Larry Gavin

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...