By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy School District plans to survey local teachers, students and parents in February or March as part of a new state requirement to assess the "instructional climate" in schools across Illinois.
The survey will be mandatory for certified staff members and for students in grades 6-12, but it will be voluntary for parents.
Teachers and students will fill out the online survey in local schools. It is expected to take less than 30 minutes to complete. Parents, meanwhile, will be able to fill out the survey from their homes, but school officials are trying to work out alternate arrangements for parents who don't have access to a computer.
"We don't want that to be a deterrent. We want to hear from as many parents as possible," said Trish Sullivan-Viniard, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
Sullivan-Viniard said details about how the survey will be carried out are still being developed. School officials will know more after they take part in a statewide webinar scheduled for mid-January.
The Illinois State Board of Education has contracted with the University of Chicago to implement the so-called "Illinois 5 Essentials Survey" in order to meet the requirements of school-reform legislation approved last year.
For example, one requirement of Senate Bill 7 calls for an instrument to be developed that will provide feedback from -- at a minimum -- students in grades 6-12 and teachers on the "instructional environment" within their schools. Meanwhile, a revised state law governing school report cards also now requires input from a "school climate survey."
Sullivan-Viniard said the new survey not only will satisfy the statutory requirements, but it also will help with "school-improvement planning and providing a more robust picture of school performance beyond assessment test scores."
She said schools stand to benefit by hearing from teachers, students and parents on their perception of the instructional climate in local schools.
"It should provide us with great information to help us as we work toward continuous improvement," she said. "It's going to be very interesting to watch this unfold. It's new for everybody this year."
All of the survey questions will focus on assessing five key areas deemed essential in successful schools: Effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environment and ambitious instruction.
"This is coming out of at least 20 years of research, and the research shows that a school that is strong in at least three of the five areas is 10 times more likely to improve substantially," Sullivan-Viniard said.
The Quincy School District "has always been good at working to address all of these areas, but we have not had a valid, reliable, research-based tool that's been able to give us clear and specific data about how we're doing in each of these areas," she said. "So this will give us really good and specific information that will help us know where to focus our efforts."
Sullivan-Viniard said the survey will be conducted anonymously. No individual information or responses will be reported back to the district by the surveying service. Only "group summary" information will be given to the district. This information also will be reported on revamped school report cards to be issued next October.
State guidelines require a climate survey to be conducted in Illinois schools sometime between Feb. 1 and March 31. It will be up to each school district to decide exactly what time frame to use within that period. Sullivan-Viniard said the Quincy School District is still determining when to conduct its survey.
More information about the survey will be announced once more details are nailed down, she said.
Some additional information is available at the following website: illinois.5-essentials.org