From ensuring students have the educational opportunities they need to reach their potential to planning strategically for the future of 100-year old community institutions, it takes a lot to run a school. Big Shoulders Fund’s Covered Schools Initiative steps in to support schools’ efforts in enrollment marketing, financial planning, scholarships, academics, and more to help them thrive for years to come. Now in its fifth year, the Initiative includes nine schools and has generated more than $1 million in operating savings. More importantly, this year alone, nearly 2,000 students continue to receive a quality education at the schools of their choice. Each of these schools is one more node in a bright network.
Each Covered School also participates in the 5Essentials Survey, a tool developed by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research (UChicago CCSR) that aims to drive improvement in schools. With three decades of strong research behind it, the survey assesses five key effectiveness factors that reflect the culture and climate of schools, which then correlate with overall school success. Schools that rate strongly in at least three of these five factors are 10 times more likely to improve student learning.
“Using this research-based third-party tool, Big Shoulders is able to deepen its vantage point when looking at schools and tailor the nature of our support accordingly,” said Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan, senior director of academic programs and external affairs. “During the past several years, our team has used survey reports to identify a focus on increasing the use of collaborative practices among teachers. In the last four years, we have seen performance on this measure nearly triple. This data has provided an opportunity to make actionable plans and monitor progress over time to ultimately benefit students.”
One of the Covered Schools, Holy Angels Catholic School, serves the Bronzeville community under the leadership of veteran educator and Holy Angels alumnus Sean Stalling. In that time, the school has used data from the 5Essentials to determine areas of focus with the goal of improving the school’s culture and climate. These whole-school efforts have led to significant increases in “academic press,” which is a measure of how challenged students feel in class, and in the level of trust between students and their teachers.
“The 5Essentials is a well-thought-out way to approach school improvement,” said Stalling. “It touches on the areas that matter most, involves the stakeholders that matter most, and measures the strongest levers to help transform a school. The key is to use the 5Essentials as a tool for change. One should embrace the data it provides and grow from it. The change that results from using this information will make you a better leader and your school a better place for children.”
Since 2015, through Big Shoulders Fund’s Data Analysis Initiative with support from the Data, Outcomes, and Research Committee, Big Shoulders has developed use of the 5Essentials survey into a core offering, with the number of participating schools steadily increasing to 20 and plans to expand to 24 schools this year.