1. Do the 5Essentials predict school improvement in high- and low-poverty schools?
2. Regardless of poverty level, does every school have a similar likelihood to develop or maintain strong 5Essentials?
1. How do schools understand and utilize data from the 5Essentials Survey in the context of improvement efforts?
2. What factors facilitate or impede schools’ engagement with their 5Essentials results?
The 5Essentials Survey has been administered in CPS since the 1990s and measures a school’s strength in five essential organizational conditions that influence student learning: Effective Leaders, Collaborative Teachers, Involved Families, Supportive Environment, and Ambitious Instruction. This study uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to address questions about the survey’s predictiveness and how schools utilize the data generated by the survey.
Specifically, the quantitative study used pre-pandemic data from 2011-12 through 2018-19 to examine whether the 5Essentials predict school improvement in high- and low-poverty schools, and whether every school has a similar likelihood to develop or maintain strong 5Essentials, regardless of poverty level.
Using interviews conducted throughout 2019, the qualitative study examines how schools understand and utilize data from the 5Essentials Survey in the context of improvement efforts, and what factors facilitate or impede schools’ engagement with their 5Essentials results.
Read our Chicago Sun-Times op-ed, Let’s pay attention when students, teachers tell us what they think about their school, to hear from our Lewis-Sebring Director, Elaine Allensworth, on the importance of these findings.
- The 5Essentials Survey remains strongly predictive, despite concerns about its inclusion in CPS accountability. 5Essentials measures predicted school improvement on an array of outcomes—including GPA, attendance, and test scores—in both high- and low-poverty schools at both the elementary and high school level.
- In most 5Essentials Survey measures, chances of being strong on the 5Essentials were found to be similar for schools at all poverty levels.
- At the same time, there were some measures that were more likely to be strong in schools with students from neighborhoods with lower poverty levels. Five of these measures were less prevalent in both high-poverty elementary and high schools. These included one student measure—Safety—and four teacher measures—Parent Involvement, Teacher-Parent Trust, School Commitment, and Student Discussion.
- Among elementary schools with strong 5Essentials, high-poverty schools improved more than low-poverty schools on more than one-half of measures. This means that improvements in school climate and organizational features in high-poverty schools had a greater benefit for student learning than in low-poverty schools.
- CPS granted schools considerable autonomy in how they used their survey data. However, principals acknowledged that the lack of district-wide guidance on how to interpret and act on the results hampered use of the data for improvement.
- Practitioners reported that the data sometimes seemed opaque and difficult to use. They also noted that its focus on school principals made it difficult for school leaders and their teams to engage impartially with the data.
- Principals credited partnerships with leadership coaches from external organizations as valuable in helping them interpret and act on their survey data. Similarly, systematic collaboration by instructional leadership teams increased schools’ capacity to use the data.
- Some principals depicted their priorities for school improvement as heavily influenced by SQRP and accountability, and some teachers expressed concern that accountability affected how teachers responded to the survey.