For Immediate Release
January 30, 2013

School Environment Matters: State Board of Education administers first Illinois 5Essentials Survey to help improve student learning

Students, parents and teachers weigh in on school climate and learning conditions

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today that starting Feb. 1, students and teachers will be given the first statewide opportunity to weigh in on learning conditions and school climate, indicators that have been proven necessary for strong student outcomes, including better attendance and improved student performance. The State Board joins UChicago Impact at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute in providing an online survey, called the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, to help the state’s nearly 4,000 schools better identify their strengths and areas needing improvement.

“As educators, we have long understood that test scores alone do not represent the full scope of school life and learning,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “The Illinois 5Essentials Survey will finally help us paint that fuller picture of learning conditions and guide local and state improvement initiatives so that every student has access to a world-class education.”

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey (Organizing Schools for Improvement) asks about leadership, collaboration, family involvement, instruction and the school environment and will be administered between Feb. 1 and the end of March to all certified K-12 teachers and students in grades 6-12 across the state.

As part of the first statewide survey, Gov. Pat Quinn has declared Friday, Feb. 15 “Illinois 5Essentials Day” and encourages schools to take 15 minutes on the 15th to provide important feedback on learning conditions and school climate. “I urge Illinois teachers and students to take 15 minutes for this unique opportunity to share their insights,” Gov. Quinn said. “Teachers are on the front lines and students are our most important stakeholders; their first-hand impressions of school conditions are essential to learning what works and what needs improvement.”

Governor Quinn noted that strong participation is needed; at least 50 percent of students and teachers at each school must fill out this survey in order for ISBE to have enough data to generate a school-level report. The approximately 15-minute-long survey provides a comprehensive assessment of school organizational culture with reports to help drive school improvement on the five indicators or “essentials”:

5Essentials generates data that helps schools target resources and make decisions that help accelerate learning and test score gains. 5Essentials also demonstrates that teachers and students can play a crucial role in school reform: What they share about their schools reliably predicts whether those schools are likely to improve or stagnate.

Based on 20 years of research conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research in more than 400 schools, including Chicago Public Schools, the 5Essentials has been shown to be strongly predictive of school improvement. Schools strong in 3 to 5 of the Essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak in 3 to 5 of the Essentials. Those differences remain true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender and neighborhood characteristics. Strength on components within the Essentials also correlates with increased teacher retention, student attendance, college enrollment and high school graduation.

“The survey has helped us to identify those areas where we are strong and those areas needing improvement,” said Ernesto Matias, principal at Wells Community Academy in City of Chicago Public Schools District 299. “It gave us the benefit of hearing the voices of teachers, students and parents about the way things are working in the school.”

In addition to being used in CPS, a version of the 5Essentials survey has been administered in schools in Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Indiana.

“This survey was eye-opening and is already making a difference,” said Kimberly Capron, an instructional specialist at Wayne Elementary School in Detroit Public Schools. “It really generates baseline data to help us figure out where we’re at and what changes need to take place. It’s not a punitive or a `gotcha’ exercise but has truly led to some positive changes.”

The Illinois 5Essentials Survey, required to be implemented this school year by Senate Bill 7, passed in 2011, represents Illinois’ first effort to administer a statewide survey of learning conditions to teachers and students. Statewide summary results will be shared with ISBE this summer. Schools will receive their results this summer and ISBE will incorporate results into the 2013 school report cards, typically released by ISBE at the end of October. Federal Race to the Top funds are covering the cost of the survey.

During this inaugural year, districts have the option of asking parents to participate in the survey. ISBE is considering requiring parental participation in the 2013-14 school year.

While this survey may help inform state policy and improvement initiatives, it is primarily intended to help schools at the local level by identifying strengths and areas that need improvement and provide more comprehensive information about each school for parents and community members.

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