Results of an annual 5Essentials survey show that in the 2016-17 school year, School District 65 declined in four of the five areas deemed critical for school success. The survey is administered under the auspices of the Illinois State Board of Education.

“The 5Essentials survey provides a comprehensive picture of a school’s organizational culture through student and teacher responses to questions designed to measure five ‘essentials’ critical for school success,” said Peter Godard, Chief of Research, Assessment and Data at District 65, in a Sept. 25 memo to the School Board.

The 5Essentials survey is based on a 20-year study of more than 400 schools in Chicago. Researchers at the University of Chicago found that schools that measured strong in three or more of the five essentials were 10 times more likely to improve student achievement in reading and math than schools weak in three or more of the essentials.

The five essentials, which form the framework of the 5Essentials Survey, are as follows:

• Ambitious instruction: Classes are challenging and engaging.

• Effective leaders: Principals and teachers implement a shared vision for success.

• Collaborative teachers: Teachers collaborate to promote professional growth.

• Involved families: The entire staff builds strong external relationships.

• Supportive Environment: The school is safe, demanding, and supportive.

The District’s five-year strategic plan is organized around the 5Essentials.

Scores on Each of the 5Essentials

Mr. Godard’s memo also said there was “excellent participation” in the survey by District 65 students and teachers.  Overall, 92% of both students (grades 6-8) and teachers responded. Only 21% of parents responded.

In the survey, each school is given an “Essential Score” for each of the five essentials. The Illinois State Board of Education defines an Essential Score as “a summary indicator that describes the school’s performance on each particular essential.” 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:

• 0 to 19: Least Implementation;

• 20 to 39: Less Implementation;

• 40 to 59: Average Implementation;

• 60 to 79: More Implementation;

• 80 to 100: Most Implementation.

District 65’s scores declined in four of the five essentials. The decline between school years 2015-16 and 2016-17 was as follows: effective leaders – from a score of 46 to 45; collaborative teachers – from 47 to 45; involved families – from 65 to 63; and ambitious instruction – from 67 to 60.

The one area where the District improved was supportive environment. There the District improved from 44 to 52.

The accompanying chart shows the trends in the 5Essential scores during the last five years.

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...