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The 5Essentials is a data-driven school improvement system from the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute. Based on over 20 years of research, the 5Essentials helps schools drive positive change through the use of a diagnostic assessment, rigorous data analysis, and a professional learning series for district and school leaders.


As a Project Manager, I led and implemented all aspects of the 5Essentials system for over 100 schools across five states. This included creating and managing unique deliverables and timelines for each client; communicating with stakeholders and survey participants; and analysing survey data and delivering 5Essentials survey reports. Additionally, I crafted and delivered quarterly professional learning sessions, illuminating data-driven solutions for school leaders and helping them form actionable school improvement plans.

The Challenge

Drive improvement at economically disadvantaged schools through the use of research-based student and teacher feedback.

The Outcome

Collaborative professional development sessions wherein principals and key stakeholders create data-driven goals and action plans to address key areas for growth on a school-by-school basis.

One of my most productive partnerships was with the Big Shoulders Fund, a grant-making organization that provides support to Chicago’s neediest Catholic schools. Seeking innovative ways to support their lowest-performing schools, the Fund sought out 5Essentials in hopes of spurring change and improving student outcomes. Beginning in 2015, I became the Fund’s 5Essentials project manager, overseeing all aspects of our partnership.


With an initial cohort of eight schools, I implemented the 5Essentials survey and produced detailed reports that illuminated the strengths and weaknesses in their culture and climate. Their data revealed a common deficiency in collaborative practices, the degree to which teachers work together to develop instructional strategies. With this in mind, I crafted and delivered a series of professional learning sessions focused on developing pathways for teachers to observe one another and give constructive feedback.

The Impact
  • 21 schools serving nearly 2,000 students received professional development services

  • Schools exhibited nearly half a standard deviation improvement in a focus area identified by 5Essentials data

  • Cohort of participating schools served doubled over the course of just three years

  • 93% of participants rated their professional development as "good" or "excellent"

Over the course of three years, with a focus on collaborative practices, the Fund’s cohort saw a steady increase in positive teacher feedback on this measure. Teachers in 2018 rated their school’s collaborative practices 13 points above 2015’s levels, nearly half a standard deviation of improvement.


This success saw the Big Shoulders Fund increase its support and expand its cohort, more than doubling the number of participating schools. The Fund also formalized its use of the 5Essentials, integrating it into their school evaluations and school improvement planning. Starting in Fall 2018, the Fund entered the fifth year of its partnership with the 5Essentials. Perhaps most importantly, school leaders had overwhelmingly positive responses to the professional learning sessions, with over 93% of participants rating them “good” or “excellent”.

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