On the 2022 5Essentials survey, School District 65 scored lower in four of the five essentials deemed critical for school success, than it did on 2021 survey. It stayed the same in one.

The district scored in the “Less Implementation” range for two essentials: “Effective Leaders” and “Collaborative Teachers.” It scored in the “Average Implementation” range for the three other essentials: “Involved Families,” Supportive Environment” and “Ambitious Instruction.”

There are subcategories for each of the five essentials, 20 in all. The results showed that the district moved down in 15 of the 20 subcategories, up in four and stayed the same in one.  It ranks below the state baseline average in all four of the subcategories that fall within the essential Effective Leaders. It ranks below the state baseline average in four of the five subcategories that fall within the essential Collaborative Teachers.

The survey was administered between Jan. 11 and March 11, 2022, under the auspices of the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

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 Simone Griffin, District 65’s director of Research, Accountability & Data, and Cindy Gonzalez, assessment manager, in a Nov. 4 report to the School Board. The RoundTable obtained the report through a Freedom of Information Act request.

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 survey “generates valuable data meant to highlight areas of strength and areas that need support,” says the report.

Survey participation

Griffin and Gonzalez’s report says there was “excellent participation” in the survey. Overall, 78% of students in grades four to eight responded; 79% of teachers and 27% of parents responded.

Teachers’ responses are primarily used in assessing the categories Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers and Involved Families. Students’ responses are primarily used in assessing Ambitious Instruction and Supportive Environment.

Data from the parent survey is supplemental and does not factor into the main 5Essentials measures.

What the scores mean

In the survey, each school is given an “Essential Score” for each of the five essentials. ISBE 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., a 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 essential scores

District 65’s scores declined in four of the five essentials in the 2020-2021 school year, and stayed the same in one. The chart below shows the scores for the five essentials on the 2021 and the 2022 surveys.

The District is significantly 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 chart below shows the trends in the 5Essential scores during the last seven years. Between 2015 and 2022, scores have dropped significantly in four of the five essentials: 13 points for Effective Leaders, 18 points for Collaborative Teachers, 9 points for Involved Families, and 15 points for Ambitious Instruction. The score increased for Supportive Environment by 18 points.

Scores on the Underlying Subcategories 

Each of the five essentials has subcategories.  For example, there are four subcategories that go into assessing whether a school has Effective Leaders. They are program coherence, teacher-principal trust, teacher influence, and instructional leadership.

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

The report prepared by Griffin and Gonzales shows that in 2022 the District received lower overall scores in 15 of 20 of the subcategories, higher scores in 4 of the subcategories, and the same score in one subcategory.

The District scored in the less implementation range in 6 of the 20 subcategories, it scored in the average implementation range in 11 of the subcategories, and it scored in the more implementation range in 3 of the subcategories.

Recognizing that larger changes in scores are more indicative of changing conditions in the schools, the summary below notes only the subcategories where scores moved up or down by 5 or more points between the 2021 and 2022 surveys:

In the Effective Leader category: Scores dropped by 10 points for Program Coherence, by 8 points for Teacher-Principal Trust, and by 13 points for Instructional Leadership.

In the Collaborative Teachers category: Scores dropped by 14 points for Quality/Professional Development, by 10 points for School Commitment, and by 11 points for Collaborative Practices. The score for Teacher-Teacher Trust increased by 7 points.

In the Involved Families category: The score for Parent Influence on Decision Making declined by 11 points.

In the Supportive Environment category: The score for Peer Support for Academic Work declined by 24 points, and for Student-Teacher trust it declined by 12 points. The score of Safety increased by five points.

Ambitious Instruction: No score moved by more than five points.

The chart below shows District 65’s scores for each of the 20 subcategories on the 2022 5Essential Survey.

Members of the District 65 School Board have not discussed the results of the 5 Essential Survey in an open meeting.

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...

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