Buffalo Grove area school districts seek more parent feedback
Stevenson students Alex Levy, Annie Keller, Alex Howard, Joel Glickman, Bennett Saltzman and Nick Olson create the school's morning announcements, which is one example of the "ambitious instruction" being sought by the new "5 Essentials" test. | Ronnie Wa
BUFFALO GROVE — Teachers and students are captive audiences, but school officials around the area are now reaching out to capture the final voice in the educational story.
Elementary and high school districts across the state have been tasked to get parents to fill out and submit what is billed as a 15-minute, anonymous, online survey from the University of Chicago. Districts that get enough parents to participate will receive back from the university what many schools officials are touting as valuable and insightful data about their schools’ proficiency.
“They’ve really got their act together, with reliability and validity,” and Robert Hudson, assistant superintendent for education innovation at Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary District 102.
Hudson said he’s intrigued to know what the University of Chicago’s researchers learn from this winter’s local survey.
That survey is titled “5 Essentials,” and 2013 is the first year of the state mandating that all schools from sixth through 12th grades give all teachers, students and parents the chance to fill it out.
Organized by the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research, the exam has different forms for the three audiences, but always breaks its questioning down into five categories:
• Effective leaders;
• collaborative teachers;
• involved families;
• supportive environment;
• and ambitious instruction.
Hudson and other school officials stressed that the University of Chicago researchers’ results are meaningful. The exam is 20 years old, has been used in 400 schools so far, and has proven indicative of what educators can do better.
“The 5 Essentials have been shown to be strongly predictive of school improvement,” wrote Kim Sylvan, spokeswoman for Lincolnshire-Prairie View Elementary District 103 in an email. “Schools strong in three to five of the Essentials are 10 times more likely to improve student learning than schools weak in three to five of the Essentials. Those differences remain true even after controlling for student and school characteristics, including poverty, race, gender and neighborhood characteristics.”
In order for the local school districts to receive the analysis, they must provide the researchers large sample sizes. That means at least half of all students and teachers, and at least 30 percent of all parents.
And it has been tough, thus far, officials said.
Hudson said District 102 had 11 percent of its parents fill out their questionnaires by the end of last week; other districts did not have statistics readily available, but said they needed more.
The Illinois State Board of Education is funding the work; districts that get enough involvement are scheduled to receive their survey results in June. Regardless of parent participation, schools that turn in surveys from at least half of their students and teachers will get those results back.
“But it’s important to know how our parents feel,” Hudson said. “We keep putting the reminders out.”