As we saw from 709Connect, the engagement of the community and our families with our schools is of the utmost importance for the success of our children.

Obtaining feedback from our parents is also very important in order to hear perceptions, opinions and thoughts about their relationship with our schools.

And, two more groups have a very important voice when it comes to giving feedback about our schools: students and teachers.

Hearing from our stakeholders can be extremely helpful in working on the continual school improvement process.

In just a few days, parents, teachers and students in sixth through 12th grades can give their input and opinions about the "instructional climate" of our District 709 school buildings.

How is this possible? Through the Illinois 5 Essentials survey.

This survey, being given for the first time in February and March in all Illinois public schools, is part of the legislative overhaul of the teacher and principal evaluation laws in our state.

And, if you fall into any of the groups listed above, this is your opportunity to give us your feedback!

The Illinois 5 Essentials Survey provides a comprehensive assessment of school organizational culture with actionable reports to help drive school improvement on five indicators or "essentials":

• Effective Leaders

• Collaborative Teachers

• Involved Families

• Supportive Environment

• Ambitious Instruction

The purpose of the survey is to assist principals in the school improvement process by providing feedback in the five areas above.

This survey, designed by the University of Chicago, has been used in the Chicago Public Schools for the past 20 years.

Research has shown that schools that are strong in at least three of the five indicators are 10 times more likely to improve student learning.

The results of the survey will be shared with school districts in June, and in the fall, the results will appear on the school district's "report card", along with our state test scores.

What types of questions are asked on the survey? Here is a brief summary:

• The student survey asks questions about students' experiences, attitudes, and activities in school.

• The teacher survey asks questions about a variety of topics, including instruction, professional development, and the school as a workplace.

• The parent survey asks questions about the parent's overall relationship with the school.

The survey is on-line for parents, students and teachers.

Parents will receive the link, via e-mail on Feb. 1 and will have until March 31 to complete the survey.

This link will also be available on three websites: Morton 709, Illinois State Board of Education, and Illinois 5 Essentials Survey.

Now, perhaps the most important part of the process: your participation.

In order to receive the information from the parent survey, we must have at least 30 percent of our parents complete the survey.

So, I ask your help and assistance in participating and providing us with the feedback that can help inform and guide us in making the Morton Schools even better.

As mentioned above, students in sixth through 12th grade will take the survey (during the school day) and our teachers will participate also.

In order for the district to receive data from the survey from our students and teachers, we must have at least 50 percent of those groups participating.

I thank you in advance for your time and participation.

The voices of parents, students and teachers are impactful and important to what we do in our schools every day.

The Illinois 5 Essentials survey is one more communication tool that will be a valuable part of listening to our community.