Illinois 5Essentials Survey:
Organizing Schools for Improvement

In District 181, we joined the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) in administering the Illinois 5Essentials Survey for the second consecutive year. Our certified teachers and middle school students completed the 15-minute research-based survey to help identify strengths and areas for improvement in their school’s climate and learning conditions. A parent survey was also available. While not required by the state, we encouraged our families to participate. Please see the column at right for more information about the parent survey.

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey provides a comprehensive assessment of school organizational culture with actionable reports to help drive school improvement on five indicators or “essentials”:

  • Effective Leaders
  • Collaborative Teachers
  • Involved Families
  • Supportive Environment
  • Ambitious Instruction

The survey was open March 17, 2014 – April 25, 2014. Responses from eligible students and teachers were reviewed and analyzed to create a web-based 5Essentials Report, available only via the 5Essentials web-reporting tool. In June 2014, school principals and District administrators were given access to view the data. School reports are now available to the public via the website and Illinois State Report Card. 

Why did the Illinois State Board of Education implement this survey?
(Response from the 5Essentials website) 

The State Board has long recognized that test scores alone do not provide a full picture of teaching and learning in any one school. Under legislation (Senate Bill 7, PERA), the State Board is now mandated, on a biennial basis, to implement a learning conditions survey that will finally help paint that fuller picture. While this survey may help inform state policy and improvement initiatives, it is primarily intended to help local administrators, such as teachers, principals, and superintendents, identify strengths and weaknesses at the district and school level and better target resources and interventions. 

Survey Results

Teacher and student response data is included with the 2013 and 2014 State Report Cards, and you can explore the results on the 5Essentials website. The Illinois State Board of Education did not create reports or publish results for the parent results. We chose to release the data voluntarily. In 2014, only those schools with enough responses (30%) generated a report. For 2014, those schools were Elm, Madison, and Walker.

As noted by the Illinois State Board of Education, the aim of the survey was to "provide educators and administrators with data to inform best decision making for improving school climate." Further, the intention of the survey is to "provide additional information to the public as well as additional data points to schools and districts for reflection and improvement... The reports are not intended for ranking nor do they prove which schools are best serving their students."