The5Essentials are based on extensive studies by researchers with the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) at the University of Chicago (U of C) and reported in their book, “Organizing Schools for Improvement.” They found there are five essential components for school success: ambitious instruction; effective leaders; collaborative teachers; involved families; and a supportive environment.

The researchers found that schools strong on three or more of the five essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning gains than schools weak on three or more of the essentials.

An Essential Score is a summary indicator that describes the school’s performance on each particular essential.

Researchers also designed a survey to measure how well schools have implemented the five essentials. The survey is given to students (sixth grade and up) and to teachers, and asks approximately 80 questions to students and 150 questions to teachers to gather information on 22 measures of school climate and practice. The measures are grouped into the five essentials.

“What they [the students and teachers] share about their schools has been demonstrated to reliably predict whether their schools are likely to improve or stagnate,” says the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in its online reports.

ISBE has contracted with UChicago Impact, a non-profit organization affiliated with U of C, to administer the survey to students and teachers at all schools in the State and to provide the results of the survey. Among other data, UChicago Impact computes “Essential Scores” and “5Essential Scores” for each school. ISBE has reported these scores as part of its online report cards.

The “Essential Scores”

Each school is given an Essential Score for each of the five essentials. “An Essential Score is a summary indicator that describes the school’s performance on each particular essential,” says ISBE. The scores are reported on a scale of 1-99, where every 20 points is exactly one standard deviation wide, and the benchmark (i.e., the score of 50) is the 2013 Illinois state average by type of school (e.g., K-5, K-8, 6-8 or 9-12).

The scores are thus norm-based, and reflect how a school is doing in terms of implementing each of the five essentials in relation to all other schools in the State that have the same grade configuration. The scoring categories are:

• “Most implementation”: a score between 80 and 99

• “More implementation”: a score between 60 and 79

• “Average implementation”: a score between 40 and 59

• “Less implementation”: a score between 20 and 39

• “Least implementation”: a score between 0 and 19.

The accompanying charts on this page show the Essential Scores of District 65 schools on each of the five essentials. They also reflect the 2014 State average for schools with the same grade configuration.

The Essential Scores for effective leaders, collaborative teachers and involved families, are based primarily on teachers’ responses to the survey. The Essential Scores for ambitious instruction and supportive environment are based primarily on students’ responses to the survey. Because students in K-5 schools do not take the survey, results for ambitious instruction and supportive environment are not reported for the District’s elementary schools.

The “5Essentials Score”

Each school was also given a 5Essentials Score – or an overall score – which is based on an aggregation of the five Essential Scores. “This score is a summary indicator that describes a school’s performance on the 5Essentials as a group,” says ISBE. There are five rankings: well organized, organized, moderately organized, partially organized, and not yet organized for improvement.

District 65’s schools were given the following overall ratings:

Elementary Schools (K-5)

Dawes – well-organized

Dewey – organized

Kingsley – well-organized

Lincoln – partially-organized

Lincolnwood – organized

Oakton – not yet organized

Orrington – partially-organized

Walker – moderately-organized

Washington – organized

Willard – partially-organized

Magnet Schools (K-8)

Bessie Rhodes – well-organized

King Arts – organized

Middle Schools (6-8)

Chute – well-organized

Haven – well-organized

Nichols – moderately-organized

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...