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Illinois 5Essentials FAQs

Last Updated: Oct 10, 2017 12:05PM CDT

Illinois 2017-18 5Essentials Survey:
Organizing Schools for Improvement

Frequently Asked Questions


What are the 5Essentials and 5Essentials Survey?

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 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: Teachers collaborate to promote professional growth..
  • 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 and support students to realize their goals. Classmates also support one another.
  • Ambitious Instruction: Classes are academically demanding and engage students by emphasizing the application of knowledge.

The 5Essentials Survey is taken by all prekindergarten through 12th-grade teachers and all sixth- through 12th-grade 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 five essential areas critical for school improvement in a meaningful context of similar and successful schools.

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

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 recent 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 the survey will also be shared with parents and the general public on school report cards released in the fall.

What do the surveys ask?

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.

A link to the 2017-2018 survey questions can be found here (once updated).

How might my school benefit from participating?

This survey provides an opportunity for students and teachers to have a voice in improving their schools. Your school community’s participation can help your school 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.

Do we have to participate in the 5Essentials Survey, or can we choose an alternative?

Legislation introduced by the former governor in 2014 amended the Survey of Learning Conditions statute, authorizing the State Superintendent of Education to select at least two but no more than three alternatives to the Illinois 5Essentials, the state’s survey of learning conditions. The state will cover the entire cost of the learning conditions survey for districts that choose to use the Illinois 5Essentials Survey. Schools that select one of the approved alternative surveys do so at their own cost, the state will only pay for the 5Essentials Survey. A full copy of the legislation can be found here. For more information on survey alternatives visit

When will the survey be conducted?

This year the survey will be administered from November 15, 2017 – January 18, 2018.

What schools are required to participate in the survey?

All district schools, including alternative schools that fall under the district’s domain, are required to participate in a school learning conditions survey at least every other year. In 2017-18, districts that did not participate in the survey last year or administer an alternative survey will be required to participate. Any district that had teacher or student responses last year will not be required to participate. However, all districts will have the option to participate and are strongly encouraged to do so to inform ongoing school improvement.

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

Additional years 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.

Who takes the survey?

All sixth- through 12th-grade students and all prekindergarten through 12th-grade certified teachers take the 5Essentials Student Survey and 5Essentials Teacher Survey, respectively.

What teachers are eligible to participate in the survey?

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
  • Instructional coaches
  • Counselors
  • Social workers
  • Teacher aides

The following positions are ineligible to participate in the survey:

  • Substitute teachers
  • Tutors
  • Principals, Assistant Principals and Superintendents
  • Student teachers

Why are administrators not included as survey participants?

The purpose of the survey is to help principals with their continuous school improvement, and principals already have a role in this process. The 5Essentials Survey gives students and teachers the opportunity to provide input about the school environment. These data form the basis for reliably predicting student outcomes and school improvement. Additionally, there are specific leadership questions in the teacher survey that solicit feedback regarding the principal’s performance and communication – the survey content was designed for teacher feedback. 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 their school community and the metrics they use to gauge the success of their programs.


Is there a way for parents to participate in the survey?

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 schools and 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 the student and teacher survey components. Participation in the parent supplement is welcome as this survey offering is explored and refined.

Who is considered a parent and how do parents access the survey?

The parent survey is to be completed by parents, guardians, or other caregivers with a child in grades prekindergarten through 12. The parent survey is available in English and Spanish and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. To complete the parent survey, please visit and select Parent survey.

How long will the survey take?

The survey takes participants about 20 minutes to complete. In almost all cases, the survey is completed in less than 30 minutes.

Are there any technical requirements to access the survey online?

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

  • Google Chrome
  • Internet Explorer (version 7 or newer)
  • Microsoft Edge
  • Mozilla Firefox (version 4 or newer)
  • Safari (version 5 or newer)
How will the survey be administered?

The survey will be conducted online and will be accessible via the Illinois 5Essentials website. In a change from past years, both the student and teacher surveys will be rostered in the 2017-18 administration. This means students will use their state student ID and birth date to log-in to take the survey. Administrators at the school level can see which students did or did not respond—but they will never know how an individual student responded to individual questions nor will any unique identifiers be connected with individual responses or used in any report.
Teachers will be emailed their unique username and password to log-in and take the survey. All responses are completely confidential. Administrators will not see which teachers did or did not respond. Also, names or other unique identifiers will never be connected with individual responses or used in any report.

Is there any change to the confidentiality of participants when the survey is rostered?

The 5Essentials remains a confidential survey. No student or teacher names or other unique identifiers are connected with individual responses or used in any report. The 5Essentials System is designed with these protections to allow teachers, students, and parents to respond honestly to the survey to provide valuable input about their schools. If any individuals feel that they cannot respond honestly or that they are being forced to participate, they may contact the 5Essentials hotline at or 1.866.440.1874.

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

Responses from eligible students (grades 6-12) and teachers will be reviewed and analyzed to create a web-based 5Essentials Report. In March 2018 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. To view past results, visit

Is student and teacher participation mandatory?

Individual participation in the Illinois 5Essentials Survey is completely voluntary. However, schools must achieve a 50 percent response rate from students and/or a 50 percent response rate from instructional staff to qualify for 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.

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

A minimum of eight respondents is required for teachers and a minimum of ten respondents is required for 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.

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

No, the parent survey requires a 20 percent response rate in order to generate a summary report. 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.

Will survey results be used in principal evaluations?

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).

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

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 to implement the Illinois 5Essentials Survey through December 31, 2017. After this date there will be other agency funds that are used to pay for the survey administration.

Who is conducting this survey?

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.

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

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

Who can I contact if I have questions?

Please contact 5Essentials Client Services at or 1.866.440.1874.

If you have questions regarding your schools participation or participants included in your roster, please reach out to ISBE directly at or call the IL-EMPOWER Main Line at 217.524.4832.

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