5Essentials is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide.

How 5Essentials Works

5Essentials is an evidence-based system designed to drive improvement in schools nationwide. A diagnostic assessment of school effectiveness based on more than 20 years of research, 5Essentials assesses schools’ strengths and weaknesses in five key areas for improving school success and student learning:

  • 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.


Survey Administration and Data Analysis

The 5Essentials’ School Improvement Survey of teachers and students predicts schools’ success through research-tested diagnostic analysis.

Data analysis is performed through individualized web-based reports that offer a comprehensive picture of the school environment and provide a framework for understanding the 100-plus survey questions.

Professional Learning

Beyond the survey and data analysis, the 5Essentials team supports school leadership with rigorous, engaging training sessions to help educators drive school improvement.

Through our professional learning, we are committed to building the mindsets, knowledge, and skills educators need to sustain long-term improvements and are committed to nurturing professional collaboration across schools and districts for the benefit of all students.  

We focus on distributed leadership to help building and district leaders invest their staff in the changes necessary for school climate improvement.

Examples of our professional learning include:  

  • Research and evidence-based strategies on specific measures (eg. Instructional leadership, student-teacher trust, collaborative practices)
  • Shared learning experiences
  • Supported work time to plan action steps

Leadership Coaching

From research, evidence, and practice we know that ensuring all students learn at high levels, particularly in high-poverty schools, is an immense challenge. We also know that professional development for both teachers and leaders can, at times, be limited and challenging. Leadership Coaching with UChicago addresses both of these challenges through on-site, embedded coaching using evidence and research on school improvement to support and drive growth. Our coaches:

  • Support school improvement planning and implementation
  • Diagnose and support action steps for acute challenges
  • Provide feedback to the school leader and leadership teams


“We examined the 5Essential survey results and decided to work on student-teacher trust. We met with our leadership team coach to help prepare for grade-level meetings, they’d offer suggestions for teacher input and materials and resources to use. He met with our student council and asked them questions about student-teacher trust and used their responses to identify key trends and patterns. Through the work, I saw areas that needed to improve that I don’t think would have been identified if not the work of the partnership. Teachers became more aware of the impact of their words and actions when interacting with students.”

                         —Marianne Turk; Leadership Team Member, McPherson Elementary


The 5Essentials Survey is currently being used in diverse school contexts in 14 states and 30 cities across the United States. These settings vary from the entire state of Illinois including Chicago, a school in rural Montana, to Iowa, to suburban St. Paul, to Kansas City, and private, parochial and public schools in Detroit.

Below are perspectives from educators in various school contexts, all working with the 5Essentials survey:


“We have conducted staff and student surveys for a while. However, there were two big problems. First, we could always compare school to school but, until­ we started using 5Essentials, we had no reliable way of answering, "Is 60% good?"  Second, staff and student impressions around research-based practices are invaluable. 5Essentials made sure that we were not just getting input, but that we were getting input about the right things.”

— Peter Olson-Skog; Director of Teaching and Learning, Roseville Area School District


“It was both an honor and a pleasure working with 5E—we feel like we have what we need to take the next step toward using this data to improve our schools.”

— Jane Stassen; Director of Curriculum and Instruction, South Saint Paul Public Schools


“This survey was eye opening and is already making a difference. It really generates baseline data to help us figure out where we’re at and what changes need to take place. It’s not a punitive or a `gotcha’ exercise but has truly led to some positive changes.”

— Kimberly Capron; Instructional Specialist; Wayne Elementary School, Detroit Public Schools


“At Benjamin Banneker we have used and continued to still use the 5Essentials Report results for school improvement by identifying strengths, areas of concerns, and weakness. Considering our strengths, we would like to examine those aspects to ensure these assets did not occur by accident, yet by design. In identifying our areas of concerns and weakness, we are in the process of narrowing the list to 3 to 5 items we would like to focus on to develop SMART goals and determine our results indicators for further analysis and implementation. Mostly the report confirmed what we already knew or could state concerning the direction we are heading at Benjamin Banneker. However, it is nice to have multiple data points to make informed decisions.

—Tamara Burns, Ed.D; ELA/ Common Core Specialist; Benjamin Banneker Charter Academy of Technology, Kansas City, Missour