Center for Performance

Illinois 5Essentials Survey

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 March 2014

Q: What are the 5Essentials and 5Essentials Survey?

A: 5Essentials is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide—it reliably measures changes in a school organization through the 5Essentials Survey and provides individualized, actionable reports for each school. The 5Essentials system is based on more than 20 years of research by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research on five components found to be critical for school success:

  • Effective Leaders: The principal works with teachers to implement a clear and strategic vision for school success.
  • Collaborative Teachers: The staff is committed to the school, receives strong professional development, and works together to improve the school.
  • Involved Families: The entire school staff builds strong relationships with families and communities to support learning.
  • Supportive Environment: The school is safe and orderly. Teachers have high expectations for students. Students are supported by their teachers and peers.
  • Ambitious Instruction: Classes are academically demanding and engage students by emphasizing the application of knowledge.

The 5Essentials Survey is taken by teachers and students and usually requires no more than 30 minutes to complete. The information collected through the survey is rigorously reviewed and analyzed to generate a 5Essentials Report for each school. The 5Essentials Report includes a breakdown of teacher and student responses and, most importantly, provides a comprehensive picture of the school environment based on the five Essential areas critical for school improvement in a meaningful context of similar and successful schools.

Q: Why is The Illinois State Board of Education implementing this survey?

A: 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. Aggregated data from this anonymous survey will also be shared with parents and the general public on school report cards released in the fall.

Q: How might my school benefit from participating?

A: This survey provides an opportunity for students and teachers to have a voice in improving their schools. Your school’s participation can help identify areas of strength and those in need of support, with fine-grained questions surfacing specific avenues for improvement. Equipped with this knowledge, school leadership—including teachers, support staff, principals, and district administrators—can be better positioned to target resources and efforts to drive school success.

Q: When will the survey be conducted?

A: In 2016 the survey will be administered January 11 through March 11.

Q: What schools are required to participate in the survey?

A: All district schools, including alternative schools that fall under the district’s domain, are required, by legislation, to participate in the survey at least every other year. In 2014, only districts participating in Race to the Top and those that did not participate in the survey last year were required to participate. However, all districts had the option to participate and were encouraged to do so.

Q: If my district took the survey last year, should they participate again this year?

A: A second year of data may help a school confirm patterns, inform improvement efforts, and keep parents, students, and teachers engaged in the school and district’s larger goals and needs to move towards improvement. Each survey administration is an opportunity for all school partners to check-in, give and receive feedback, and proceed with discussions and school improvement plans.

Q: My school/district already has a survey in place, do we need to participate?

A: Yes. 5Essential School Reports will be included in the new State Report Card. The Illinois State Board of Education is trying to compile reliable statewide data on school climate to not only target resources to areas for improvement but also identify those areas where schools have realized success. The research-based 5Essentials Survey data provides important information to consider as the State sets policy and recognizes schools for performance that may not be reflected in test scores alone.

Q: Who takes the survey?

A: All 6th–12th grade students and all Pre-Kindergarten–12th grade certified teachers take the 5Essentials Student Survey and 5Essentials Teacher Survey, respectively.

Q: What teachers are eligible to participate in the survey?

A: The Illinois 5Essentials Teacher Survey is to be completed by certified teachers whose primary responsibility involves teaching students for the majority of the school day and year.

Individuals in the following positions, who also teach, are also among those encouraged to participate:

  • Media specialists
  • Speech/language pathologists
  • Counselors
  • Social workers

The following positions are ineligible to participate in the survey: ·

  • Teacher aides
  • Substitute teachers
  • Tutors
  • Instructional coaches (who do not otherwise teach)
  • Student teachers

Q: Is there a way for parents participate in the survey?

A: Yes. As part of the Illinois 5Essentials Survey process, schools will have the opportunity to hear from their parent community. Schools are not required to facilitate the implementation of the parent survey supplement and results will only be reported to school districts (i.e., the results will not be featured on the State School Report Card). Please note that the original research-based 5Essentials system is comprised of only the teacher and student survey components. Participation in the parent supplement is welcome as this new survey is explored and refined.

Q: How will parents be able to access the survey?

A: The parent survey will be made available on the Illinois 5Essentials website and parents can access the survey even if the school itself is not facilitating the process. Parents can organize, using their local PTA or other available avenues, to ensure 20 percent or more of parents respond in order to generate a report. The 20 percent parent response rate will be based on the total number of students at the school. Districts will then determine how and when they share their parent responses upon receipt of the completed 5Essentials Report from ISBE in the summer.

Q: Why are administrators and support staff not included as survey participants?

A: The purpose of the survey is to help principals with their continuous school improvement, and principals have the opportunity to provide input into this process. The 5Essentials Survey for teachers and students collects data from a broad set of respondents to understand the environment within the school. These data form the basis for reliably predicting student outcomes and school improvement. Within any given school there are usually very few principals and administrators. As a result, there are not enough respondents for a principal survey to accurately and reliably measure aspects of school performance. Moreover, the small number of principal and administrator respondents for a school risks compromising confidentiality.

Nonetheless, principal and administrator perceptions are important for school improvement and school success. Interested administrators may use the 5Essentials framework for considering their own impressions of performance on each of the Essentials. Principals will have the opportunity on the State School Report Card to include information about the programs they are implementing to address the needs of stakeholders and the metrics they use to gauge the success of their programs.

Q: What do the surveys ask?

A: All survey items are multiple choice questions. There are no open ended responses.

  • The 5Essentials Student Survey asks questions about students’ experiences, attitudes, and activities in school.
  • The 5Essentials Teacher Survey asks questions about a variety of topics, including instruction, professional development, and the school as a workplace.
  • The parent survey supplement asks questions about the parent’s overall relationship with the school.

The 2013 survey questions* can be found at or by clicking here.
*Please note that the Illinois State Board of Education, in partnership with UChicago Impact, will be convening focus groups to review the items, or questions, on the survey for relevance and rigor. The information from these groups were used to make any needed changes prior to the 2014 5Essentials Survey.  The 2014 survey questions will be posted to the website once final.

Q: How long will the survey take?

A: On average the survey should only take 15-20 minutes for participants to complete. In almost all cases the survey is completed in less than 30 minutes.

Q: How will the survey be administered?

A: The survey will be conducted online and will be accessible via the Illinois 5Essentials website. Detailed information can be found in the survey manual, available soon.

Q: Are there any technical requirements to access the survey online?

A: You will need one of the following browsers in order to access the online survey:

  • Mozilla Firefox (version 4 or newer)
  • Internet Explorer (version 7 or newer)
  • Google Chrome
  • Safari (version 5 or newer)

Q: Who sees these data? How will the data be shared and published?

A: Responses from eligible students (grades 6-12) and teachers will be 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 will be given access to view the data. School reports will be available to the public via the website and Illinois State report card in the fall. For a preview of how the results of the survey will appear on the report card, visit

Q: Are responses confidential?

A: All survey responses are strictly confidential. No student or teacher names or other unique identifiers will be connected with individual responses or used in any report.

Q: What is done to protect the integrity of results on the survey?

A: In order to protect the integrity of 5Essentials response data, ISBE and the University of Chicago use preventative approaches, analysis, and data cleaning.

Preventative measures are applied to deter multiple entries and to ensure participants do not inadvertently select the wrong school. Upon entering the survey, teacher respondents are required to: 1) enter background information, including school, grade level taught, and other basic information; and 2) provide an email address, with a preference for school-issued emails.

The University of Chicago has a thorough analysis and data auditing process that includes identifying surveys where responses have no variation and schools with a mismatch between the number of teachers/students in ISBE’s records and the number of surveys submitted.

In addition, several projects are underway to further improve the implementation of the Illinois 5Essentials Survey, including a pilot in five districts to enhance survey security through use of teacher and student rosters while preserving survey anonymity.

Q: Is student and teacher participation mandatory?

A: Individual participation in the Illinois 5Essentials Survey is completely voluntary. However, at least 50 percent of your teaching/instructional staff must participate in order for your school to receive a report. Therefore, it is important to encourage complete participation from both teachers and students.

Also, if a student does not wish to answer specific questions, he/she may skip them by clicking “Next” at the bottom of the survey screen. Teachers may also skip questions if they do not wish to answer.

Q: Are there a minimum number of respondents necessary to generate a report?

A: A minimum of eight respondents is required, for both teachers and students for a school to receive a 5Essentials Report. Schools with fewer than eight teachers are exempt from administering the teacher portion of the survey. The student portion should still be administered. Teachers in these schools may still choose to partake in the survey; their response data will be included in generating the summary reports and analyses for the state.

Q: Does the parent survey also require a 50 percent response rate?

A: No, the parent survey requires a 30 percent response rate in order to generate a report for these measures. Results from the parent survey will be displayed as supplemental measures on the 5Essentials School Report.  The parent survey will not be included in the State Report Card.

Q: Will survey results be used in principal evaluations?

A: Districts may choose to use the Illinois 5Essentials Report as part of their administrator evaluation process. Districts electing to do this should follow the guidelines developed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Committee (PEAC)

Q: Is the State Board providing the funding for this survey? If so, how long will funding for this survey be available?

A: Legislation requires that schools implement a climate survey. ISBE is making a long-term commitment to implement the 5Essentials Survey in every school across the state in order to provide schools with the information they need to position themselves for improvement. The State has secured funding through Race to the Top to implement the survey in the first three years.

Q: Does the 5Essentials Survey align with the Rising Star Framework for school improvement?

A: Yes. Rising Star is a performance positioning system that provides a structure for teams to examine their practices for improved performance. Each of the eight Rising Star elements is represented through measures and questions on the 5Essentials Survey. Consequently, the results from the 5Essentials Report will serve as an important tool for districts to use towards their comprehensive planning initiatives.

Q: Who is conducting this survey?

A: UChicago Impact, a division of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago, is administering the survey on behalf of The Illinois State Board of Education.

Q: Where can I find more information about the Illinois 5Essentials Survey?

A: Additional information, including survey questions, a calendar of upcoming webinars, news, etc. can be found on the Illinois 5Essentials website (

Q: What is being done to test the relevance and predictive validity of this survey for statewide use?

A: Several projects are underway to further improve the implementation of the Illinois 5Essentials Survey. These include a pilot in five districts to enhance survey security through use of teacher and student rosters, a review of items for statewide applicability prior to the 2014 administration, a research study to examine the use of the survey data across the state, and a research study to examine the relationship between survey results and student test score gains using data from across the state.

Q: Who can I contact if I have questions?

A: Please contact 5Essentials Client Services at or 1.866.440.1874.