The Illinois 5Essentials Survey – Gathering Student and Teacher Input to Improve Schools


Tyler Gibbs, Spring 2015 Intern

Surveys administered to teachers and students allow them to share what they think about their school environment. When feedback from surveys is provided to schools and teachers they can use the information to improve student learning, classroom management, and the school environment. Surveys are not only beneficial to teachers but also students as they are able to provide direct feedback about what happens in a classroom based on the many hours they spend in the classroom. Illinois has fully embraced the use of learning conditions surveys to get a broad picture of what teaching and learning looks like in their schools. AYPF recently conducted a study tour to learn more about the use of Illinois’ 5Essentials Survey. This blog will provide an overview of the Survey and a subsequent blog will highlight some takeaways from our visit to Chicago.

In 1994 the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research created the 5Essentials Survey, and schools across Chicago started using it. The five essentials are components deemed critical for school success. They are effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment, and ambitious instruction. Each of the five essential areas has its own set of measures and each measure has its own set of guiding questions. In addition to Chicago Public Schools, school districts in Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York have started using the 5Essentials Survey. Although schools in these states are using the survey, Illinois was the first state to administer the 5Essentials Survey across all schools in their 860 districts. In 2012 the state of Illinois mandated that all schools conduct a learning conditions survey, and in 2014 Illinois passed legislation allowing schools to use an alternative learning conditions survey to the Illinois 5Essentials Survey.  Most schools utilize the 5Essentials Survey as this is the one the state pays for.

All district schools are required to participate in a survey at least every other year. For about thirty minutes, all 6th-12th grade students and all pre-K through 12th grade teachers in Illinois take a learning conditions survey. The most commonly used is the Illinois 5Essentials Survey where the student survey asks questions about the student experience and attitudes while the teacher survey asks questions about instruction, professional development and the school as a workplace. There is also a survey targeted at parents.

The data from the survey is collected and compiled into a 5Essentials Report to provide feedback to schools on their strength and weaknesses within each essential area. From this data, schools and teachers can develop school improvement plans that enhance student learning as well as teachers’ experiences.

Students’ and teachers’ feedback from the 5Essentials survey and other surveys provide valuable insight into what happens in schools. This information helps paint a broad picture of what happens in a school for policymakers, teachers, and administrators. The report cards generated from the surveys assist administrators so that they can better target resources and plan professional development, as well as improve school climate and culture.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in the series where we’ll highlight some take-aways from a recent AYPF study tour to Illinois.

Tyler Gibbs is the Spring 2015 Intern at the American Youth Policy Forum



The American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan professional development organization based in Washington, DC, provides learning opportunities for policy leaders, practitioners, and researchers working on youth and education issues at the national, state, and local levels. AYPF events and publications are made possible by contributions from philanthropic foundations. For a complete list, click here.