Results of an annual 5Essentials survey show that in the 2018-19 school year, School District 65 advanced in three of the five areas deemed critical for school success, but declined in Ambitious Instruction and Collaborative Teachers.

The District scored in the “average implementation” range for each of the five areas deemed essential for school success.

The survey is administered under the auspices of the Illinois State Board of Education.

The 5Essentials for School Success

“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 Kylie Klein, District 65’s Director of Research, Acountability & Data, and Ajoni Hopkins, Project Specialist, in a Sept. 23 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 at least three 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:

• 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, adopted by the School Board in March 2015, is organized around the 5Essentials.

Participation in the Survey

Ms. Klein’s and Ms. Hopkins’ memo said response rates were high for District 65 teachers and fourth- through eighth-graders. The teacher response rate was higher than 70% in all schools, except King Arts which had a response rate of 43%. The student response rate was higher than 75% in all schools, except Walker and King Arts, which had response rates of 0% and 2% respectively.

The average response rate was 78% for teachers, 85% for students and 32% for parents.

Teachers’ responses are primarily used in assessing effective leaders, collaborative teachers and involved families. Students’ responses are primarily used in assessing ambitious instruction and supportive environment. 

What the Scores Mean

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.

D65’s Essential Scores

District 65’s scores increased in three of the five essentials in the 2018-2019 school year. The increases between school years 2017-18 and 2018-2019 were: Effective Leaders – from a score of 43 to 46; Involved Families – from 58 to 59; and Supportive Environment – from 47-54

But, the District declined in Ambitious Instruction from 63 to 58, and in Collaborative Teachers from 43 to 40.   

The District is below the baseline average for the State (i.e. a score of 50) in two of the five essentials: Effective Leaders and Collaborative Teachers.

The accompanying chart shows the trends in the 5Essential scores during the last five years, in which scores have generally been trending down.

Scores on the Underlying Subcategories 

Each of the five essentials has subcategories (referred to as measures). For example, there are four subcategories that go into assessing whether a school has ambitious instruction. They are: math instruction, English instruction, academic challenge/rigor, and quality of student discussion. 

The 5Essential Survey provides a score for each subcategory, which is determined in a way similar to the determining the score for each of the five essentials.

The memo prepared by Ms. Klein and Ms. Hopkins reports that District 65’s score changed by five or more points in eight of the 20 subcategories between 2018 and 2019. The District increased by more than five points in Teacher-Principal Trust (seven points), Instructional Leadership (nine points), Parent Influence on Decision Making (five points), Safety (six points), and Student-Teacher Trust (eight points).

The subcategories that the District declined in by more than five points were all in the Ambitious Instruction category: Academic Press (19 points), math instruction (nine points), and quality of student discussion (six points).

The District is below the baseline average score of 50 in nine of the 20 subcategories.

Significant Changes in Scores Over Time

The data also shows that in the last five years, the District has declined by 10 or more points (a half-standard deviation) in 10 of the 20 subcategories: Program Coherence (10 points), Collective Responsibility (12 points), School Commitment (16 points), Collaborative Practices (20 points), Teacher-Parent Trust (11 points), Parent Influence on Decision Making (11 points), Academic Press (16 points), English Instruction (19 points), Math Instruction (15 points), and Quality of Student Discussion (13 points).

In the last five years, the District increased by 10 or more points in only 2 subcategories: Peer Support for Academic Work (13 points) and Student-Teacher Trust (12 points).

The 5Essential Survey results were provided as an information item in the School Board’s packet of materials for the Aug. 20 meeting. There was no discussion of the results at the Sept. 23 Board meeting.

While the Board did not discuss the survey results, administrators have said at the last three Board meetings that a major focus this year will be on improving teaching and learning, especially for black and Hispanic students.

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...