Universal School Profile

Universal School Video


Universal School is a private Islamic school founded in 1990 to accommodate the educational needs of the growing suburban Muslim community.  In the mid-1980’s, a few dedicated individuals committed themselves to the idea of establishing a model Islamic school in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. These individuals were responding to a growing demand for quality education in an Islamic environment. Construction began after groundbreaking in 1988. The school opened its doors on September 4, 1990 to 140 students and 11 staff members.  Since 1992, Universal has been recognized by the Illinois State Board of Education and in 2004 received accreditation from the North Central Association for Accreditation (now Cognia). 

The school building, which underwent an expansion in 1997 and again in 2014, is now 95,000 square feet. The school consists of forty-three classrooms, a fully equipped science lab, and two computer labs. It also boasts a journalism lab, library-media center, a cafeteria with a full service kitchen, and an indoor basketball court.  Some of the more recent updates include a multi-purpose room for lectures and presentations, a Robotics Lab/STEAM Lab, and major technological updates to allow for one-to-one learning with Chromebook devices for over 600 students simultaneously.

Governing Body

The primary purpose of Universal School is to serve the educational, spiritual and cultural needs of Muslim children via the operation of full-time Islamic elementary and high school, other educational institutions and partnerships. The Board of Directors (the “Board”) manages the business and affairs of the school. The Board of Directors is the highest and final authority on all school matters. The Board maintains general supervision of the affairs of the school, sets rules, policies and procedures that uphold Islamic principles. The Board sets the annual tuition and fees, fundraising assessment, as well as approves the hiring of administrators and faculty. Several board members sit on the school improvement committee and work closely with faculty and community members to develop and monitor our school’s strategic plan. 

Our school board is concerned with what is best for all stakeholders; students, staff and families alike. They meet twice a month formally, devote countless hours on projects in the building, and are always putting together different motivational and team building activities to help others. They are a key member in helping our students to build their Islamic identity. The Mothers’ and Fathers’ clubs meet with parents monthly and provide workshops for stakeholders. As board members, the MC and FC presidents bring all comments and concerns to the bi-monthly meetings with the Administration and Chairman of the Board. Feedback from faculty, student advocates, and parent clubs guide discussions for school improvement. School year priorities are set based on feedback and guide the following school years improvement plan. 

Purpose and Direction

Universal School’s philosophy

Universal School’s philosophy is rooted in the belief that education is a process which encompasses the entire experiences students encounter in their school. Classroom instruction is only one small aspect of a child’s educational experience. It is also rooted in the belief that students learn from the behavior and actions of the adults around them more than they learn from books.  Finally, it is rooted in the belief that children’s knowledge and pride in their religion and heritage is key to their well-being and success in the world. As such, the board of directors has strived to ensure that the administration and the teaching staff are qualified educators who themselves are observant of Islamic values in their own lives. This philosophy guided the first school board in their efforts to create a school Mission and Vision. The last revision to the Mission and Vision happened in 2015 to make the statements more concise.

School Mission

To provide a safe, nurturing, and stimulating Islamic learning environment that enables students to achieve their maximum educational potential and prepare them for their future roles in society as responsible citizens.  

School Vision

To prepare our students to be global citizens who possess innovative and creative capabilities for achievement, through a partnership between home and school that promotes Islamic values, respect, and tolerance.


Our students have access to counselors and teacher advocates, and an overall nurturing and inviting school culture. We are pleased with the dedicated efforts stakeholders have taken to benefit students, staff, and community alike. We believe in our school wide expectations and implementation of PBIS. Our staff goes beyond these expectations and plays a leading role as mentors and role models to create an atmosphere where we are able to achieve our goals of raising a future generation that promotes Islamic values, respect, and tolerance. We, as a school community, take pride in our work, and dedicate our time and efforts to our students and one another to create a generation of responsible citizens. We have created a culture that prioritizes our faith, education, high achievement, and civic engagement.


Universal School is a preschool through twelfth grade private school located in Bridgeview Illinois, approximately fifteen miles southwest of Chicago’s Loop. Universal primarily caters to Muslim families from Bridgeview and the neighboring suburbs of Palos, Tinley, Orland Park, and Burr Ridge. We also pull from communities as far north as Schaumburg and east into Indiana. Because our students travel great distances, transportation, arrival, and dismissal can be a challenge. Our population is primarily English speaking third generation students. We teach Arabic as a second language. 

Student Data

Universal School’s current enrollment is 800 students with a 53/47 split between females and males. A majority of our student population is White of Arab descent, 2% are African American, 2% Hispanic, and 4% are of Asian descent. Parents consider the school to be more competitive than the surrounding public schools since the school has a rigorous curriculum, thirteen advanced placement classes, five honors classes, and two dual credit courses with Moraine Valley Community College. Parents are also reassured that their child is receiving exceptional instruction since 80% of Universal graduates continue on to four year colleges and the remaining 20% complete two years at community college before transferring to a university. Thirty-seven percent of our graduates were accepted into their universities’ Honors programs or GPPA program, meaning they are already accepted into that university’s Law School, Med School, or Dental School.

Enrollment has been steadily increasing. During Covid (2020-2021) Elementary classes were capped at 15 to allow us to continue to hold in-person classes. Once Covid restrictions were lifted, we were able to increase enrollment by opening additional sections in grades 8-12. Each grade level has been divided into four sections instead of two allowing for growth. Based on our current building capacity and recommended class sizes, we are expecting to cap enrollment at 950 students hopefully within the next two years. 

Staff Data

The school is home to nearly 100 dedicated faculty and support staff who have an average of eighteen years teaching experience due to a low turnover rate of less than six percent. The vast majority of teachers at Universal School hold a bachelor’s degree; over forty percent have at least one Master’s Degree or PhD, and two early childhood teachers are currently completing a program to become certified teachers.  A majority of our teaching staff is of Arabic descent which mirrors our student population, about 7% of staff are of Asian descent, 5% White Non-Arab, 5% Hispanic, and 6% African-American. However, positions are open to people of any nationality and religious background who choose to interview.  

The Administrative team oversees and supports the faculty. In addition to the Principal, Pk-7th Assistant Principal, and 8th-12th Assistant Principal, the administrative team includes Academic Counselor, Instructional Coach, Deans, and Counselors. This team works together with the board to implement our school’s strategic plan.

Academic Counselor: Our Academic Counselor assists students with general information concerning academic advising, admissions, assessment, career services, general financial aid, graduation services, international student services, new student orientation, registration and retention of developmental education students.

Instructional Coach: Our instructional coach works with grade level teams and Dept. Heads to guide teacher growth and professional development to improve the quality of their lessons and the quality of students’ education. Meetings and training occur during Teachers In-Service days at the beginning and end of the year as well as once monthly on PL Days after on early dismissal days. The Instructional Coach works with teacher leaders that serve as mentors and role models, helping teachers stay fresh and use the latest techniques and technologies in their classrooms.

Deans: Our deans act to support the mission, vision, and goals of the school, promote campus safety, and contribute to the development of a positive, welcoming climate.  Deans are responsible uphold the rules and standards of the Student Code of Conduct and the school, build positive and collaborative relationships with students, staff, parents, and other stakeholders 

Clinical Counselor & Counselor: Our school counselors play a vital role in supporting students’ academic, emotional, and personal development. They provide individualized guidance to help students create academic plans, and address personal challenges. Additionally, our school counselors often engage in broader initiatives to raise awareness about important issues such as safety, mental health, substance abuse, bullying, and other significant challenges faced by students in school.

Curriculum and Instruction

Universal’s curriculum is a set of skills, concepts and processes that our students are expected to learn during their pre-kindergarten through grade twelve experiences, in addition to the traditional curriculum of Math, Science, Social Science, ELA, and Language. We also offer Religious Studies and Art. 

Universal School’s curriculum development process consists of two levels of review/revision: 

  • Comprehensive: an extensive process that examines K-12 grade level expectations as reflected in state and national standards as well as standards established by our neighboring districts (primarily Orland Park and Palos); high school curriculum may be identified by grade level or by course. A comprehensive review can lead to the adoption of new resources. 
  • Targeted: a more limited review of a particular portion of a curriculum or course in response to a defined need, to address a specific problem within that portion of the curriculum, or to assess competitiveness with neighboring districts and private schools. This process may or may not lead to the adoption of new materials. 

Comprehensive reviews of each curriculum is typically conducted on a rotating schedule not to exceed eight years. 

Throughout the curriculum revision process, stakeholders are invited to participate. Those seeking to participate in the full process will need to commit significant time and effort in order to aid in the smooth flow of the committee work. 

Stages in the curriculum revision process

  1. Curriculum mapping is used as the first step in the review process. Mapping is used to identify current objectives and course content. Additional information is gathered during the mapping process regarding supporting materials, assessments and units of study currently used in the district to support the current curriculum. 
  2. The “map” is then compared to grade level expectations, student achievement data, standards and current research to determine if it meets these criteria. 
  3. Based on the analysis of this comparison phase, revised curriculum is developed to reflect updated expectations. 
  4. Upon completion of the revisions, the proposed curriculum is assessed by the teaching staff and resources are evaluated for adequacy and appropriateness. Based on staff input, a determination is made whether or not to pursue the adoption of a new textbook and/or resources to support the implementation of the new curriculum. 

Note: When targeted reviews are conducted, the mapping process is defined by the reason for the review. Resources may or may not be changed as a result of a targeted review. 

Curriculum Implementation 

Professional development for the staff is integral to successful implementation of any curriculum and is especially important when many changes in content are involved. Therefore, Universal School provides professional development for staff during the implementation phase. The level and nature of the professional development is planned in conjunction with the revision process. Ongoing professional support is also provided based on input from the teachers and related curricular support staff. 

Faculty utilize not only traditional lecture formats but also incorporate collaborative and hands-on learning. Students in grades 3rd-12th have one-to-one technology. They use technology access curriculum resources, collaborate with classmates and create projects or pieces of work. 

Personnel Management

Hiring Practices

Equal employment opportunity is provided to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, age, gender, color, ethnicity, national origin, alienage or citizenship status, unemployment status, marital status, pregnancy, childbirth, or disability. 

In order to be eligible for employment with Universal School, prospective employees must provide the following along with an application for employment:

  • Proof of identity and employment authorization in accordance with applicable laws 
  • Official copies of their educational records such as but not limited to official transcripts, diploma, State teaching licenses, etc.

Candidates interview with a team of administrators and Department Heads. The candidate’s references are sent a survey regarding the candidate’s work history and performance. Once a decision to hire has been made, the candidate’s resume, interview evaluation sheet are sent to the Board for approval. 

The school conducts a fingerprint-based criminal history record and a Statewide sex offender database records check through the Department of State Police and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Every new employee goes through an initial period of adjustment while becoming familiar with Universal School and its expectations. For this reason, the first 90 days of employment (“Initial Employment Period”) will be considered probationary and will afford both the employee and the School the opportunity to assess one another.

Performance Review

Universal School will annually measure each employee’s job performance against the duties listed in the job description provided at the outset of the employment relationship or, if applicable, any subsequent job description furnished to the employee during the course of the employment. After every evaluation, job objectives will be reassessed and reviewed, or rewritten if needed. In either case, the immediate supervisor will review and discuss the objectives with each employee. Employees will be asked to sign a statement indicating their agreement and understanding of the objectives.

All other performance reviews apart from the annual review are unannounced and can occur at least twice a year.  In order to create a more cohesive evaluation process with our School Improvement process through Cognia, we have switched evaluations to ELEOT.  All employees were trained on ELEOT and Department heads are certified 

Our Annual Employees’ Evaluation consists of one or more observations as well as other factors, which are outlined in our employee evaluation plan. These class observations may be announced or unannounced. One comprehensive evaluation will be conducted annually.  A mid-year evaluation in addition to the other existing ones can be completed when deemed necessary.  The purpose of a mid-year evaluation is to provide feedback on performance so adjustments can be made during the second half of the school year. Informal evaluations, 5-15 minutes in length, may be conducted at random. The observer may request a lesson plan, observe classroom environment, activities, etc. Feedback will be provided for each informal evaluation. 

In addition, conducive to the smooth running of the school program, record keeping such as consistent entering of student grades online and progress report or report card submission in a timely manner, will be reflected in the complete evaluation process. Reductions for missing or late submissions will be included in the employee’s final evaluation in addition to other formal and informal evaluation tools. Employee evaluations will be discussed in detail during the in-service week. New employees and employees on probation will be evaluated more frequently.


Student Performance


NWEA MAP is administered to Kg-8th grade students two or three times a year: in the beginning (fall), in the middle (winter), and at the end of the school year (spring).

The following instructional areas were indicated as relatively strong and areas of noteworthy achievement for each grade level:

  • K-8: Math-Operations & Algebraic Thinking
  • 6th-8th: Reading- Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

Teachers conduct student goal setting conferences, introduce interventions that align with goals, communicate with parents, assess progress, and re-evaluate student goals after winter MAP testing session

Action Plan

  1. Teachers attend PD/workshop after winter MAP testing. Teachers reassess classroom goals for reading/math  
  2. Teachers re-evaluate student goals for students receiving instructional interventions
  3. Teachers complete Student Goal Setting with the Student Profile Report for remaining students.

The following instructional areas were indicated as relatively weaker which might be a concern and in need of improvement for each grade level:

  • K-5th:  Math: Measurement & Data, Geometry
  • 6th-8th: Math: Geometry, Statistics & Probability

PSAT 9th-11th Grade

The PSAT is offered in 9th, 10th, & 11th grades. 10th & 11th graders take the Fall PSAT/NMSQT exam in October each year. The 9th grade takes the PSAT 9th exam in the spring. 

Overall, Universal School students, regardless of grade and gender, have shown the ability to meet both ERW and Math benchmarks over the course of two years for the 9th (only 2 years were available on the College Board website for this grade) and three testing years for upperclassmen. More students meet the ERW expectations than in Math. It is clear that Math remains a challenging subject and the school’s Math Department has worked to bridge the gap between the different grade levels by offering after school tutoring and a better tracking system to meet the needs of all learners. 

The academic counseling office must ensure that every student meets the graduation requirements and is prepared to continue on to a postsecondary educational institution. The counselor works regularly with students at risk, their teachers, and parents/guardians. PSAT performance scores and report cards are reviewed to determine each student’s proper course placement. The counselor meets quarterly with the parents of students who do not meet the PSAT benchmarks and/or the school’s 2.0 mark and a letter is sent home for proper documentation. Students who are deficient in any Math credit are encouraged to join the free after school tutoring program offered by our Math teachers. Students are also encouraged to use Khan Academy for any other core subject(s) they have difficulty with.

Students who have more serious academic challenges are typically referred to the social counselor who works in collaboration with the academic counselor, the teachers, students, and parents/guardians as well as the administration. If it is determined that special accommodations or modifications are required, all stakeholders will meet to determine a specific course of action to help the student meet their academic goals. 

Areas of Improvement and Growth

We have experienced years of academic success. Yearly, Universal School sends off our graduating seniors to  great programs at UIC,  Northwestern, UChicago, and Loyola. Graduates receive merit-based scholarship offers that reflect the academic success of our students holding ACT scores, on average, in the top 20% of students in the State and a GPA of 3.75 or higher out of 4.0. Our graduates enter competitive programs like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and law where they go up against thousands of applicants. 

Universal plays an important role in the trajectory of our graduates, and we are always pleased with the tremendous effort that comes from both staff and students to ensure success in all ways. However we must put great focus on our goal. We have shifted our priorities towards the spiritual and emotional well being of our students to ensure they have a strong tie to their faith. The following three programs are foundational to our spiritual goals. 


Goal:  The initiative to create a formal advocacy program started with the need identified in the school’s previous accreditation to ensure every student has a systematic process available to receive support at the school.

Progress:  Universal School has successfully developed and implemented a student advocacy program to support student growth by providing students a pathway to ensure their needs are being met since 2017.  An advocacy committee was created and headed by the high school dean of students and the school’s clinical counselors plus several teacher advocates.  The program is designed to allow students in grades 8-12 to have a monthly opportunity to meet with an assigned teacher serving as their advocate who facilitates meeting their social and emotional needs as they attend Universal School.  The sessions are student-centered with the teacher advocate following a prompt-based lesson guide to stimulate discussion. 

The method for monitoring success/impact on student learning is measured by the number of students’ needs being met academically, physically, and emotionally as they attend Universal and participate in the advocacy program.  Feedback is collected and surveys are regularly used from both students and the teacher advocates to determine the program’s effectiveness and how the program should evolve to continue meeting student needs.

Method for monitoring success of all initiatives: Feedback is consistently collected through surveys and forms. This approach aims to create an open dialogue and foster a safer, more inclusive environment for all. The general student body and staff are welcome to make suggestions and/or requests to encourage collaborative work. Supervisors are in constant communication and collaboration with administrators to gather valuable insights and feedback as well. 

Spiritual Uplifting

Goal: Our Spiritual Leader organizes a series of guest lecturers who are leaders in our religious community and various youth programs. The goal is to strengthen the Islamic identity and Tazkeiyah for the students of Universal. Tazkeiyah is  the process of cleansing the Nafs (self/ego) from its base and lower qualities, and replacing them with beautiful and spiritually higher qualities. Tazkiyah aims to purify the heart from spiritual ailments. Students are able to discuss all topics whether it be questions about their faith or contemporary challenges that our students face within and outside the school.

Progress: Guest lecturers are invited monthly. These meetings have been on-going for the past two school years. Students engage in discussions with the guest speakers at the end of each session and provide feedback during advocacy meetings. 

Speak Up Speak Out

Goal: “Speak Up, Speak Out” is a student-led anti-bullying initiative at Universal School. Dedicated students have taken significant steps to raise awareness and combat bullying on school grounds. Led by upper high school grade levels and supervised by the counselor and dean of students, the group has implemented various impactful measures. Every year, new group members are carefully selected by previous members encouraging the initiative to grow once the leading students graduate. 

Progress: Group members created an anonymous reporting form, providing a safe space for students to share concerns surrounding bullying. The dean and counselors have been able to access these responses, allowing for prompt and confidential resolution of issues. The students successfully organized anti-bullying seminars featuring guest speakers who addressed different aspects of bullying since the group was formed. This group encourages other grade levels to contribute to the cause. For example, an anti-bullying poster contest was made available for middle school boys per their teacher’s request. All participants’ posters were utilized and hung up throughout the school hallways for students’ viewing. To engage the student body further, a movie showing was planned, incorporating visuals to capture attention and convey the message effectively. “Speak Up, Speak Out” has collaborated with other groups such as Mother’s Club and IDH club as well. Additionally, “Speak Up, Speak Out” developed a form utilized by our advocacy program, ensuring that the initiative reaches a broader audience. Ongoing efforts include addressing bullying related to racism, with the group actively working on new strategies to tackle this issue. 

Notable Achievements

Our school takes great pride in the achievements and accomplishments that we have made over the years; especially the large percentage of Advanced Placement Scholars we have,  the improved use of technology in classes by teachers and students to support teaching and learning. Our students have gone on to become contributing members of society. They are our doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, journalists, teachers, spiritual leaders and great Alumni. The Alumni are also parents to our current generation of students and are avid supporters of our school and community. We are especially proud that we host an annual Career Day with professions ranging from Medical Fields, Media and Journalism, Entrepreneurs and Business where all presenters are Universal Alumni. 

Our students perform exceptionally well in academic competitions. They have won State in ACES (previously WYSE) competition and confidently compete at several levels in Mathletics, from Algebra to Precalculus, winning recognition over consecutive years. Our students are motivated and passionate about technology and have competed in Robotics competitions. 

Our students also participate in Debate Teams, Interfaith, Model UN, Student Council, and Shakespeare Slam at the Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier.   They have access to both artistic clubs such as Debka (dance), Drama, and Culinary as well as sports teams. Thanks to the tremendous efforts of our Athletic Director, our sports teams are members of IHSA and IESA and perform well in all areas due to the talented coaching staff the Athletic Director has brought in.

We believe that Universal School would not have the reputation for excellence it has today without the care, expertise and commitment of its staff. It is because of their dedication we are not only known for our rigorous curriculum, but we also are able to provide students with so many opportunities for extra-curricular programs. Life as a Universal student is very fulfilling. They are engaged in activities for the benefit of the surrounding communities through our local masjids and engage in community service at nursing homes and food pantries. 

In addition to the continuous and dedicated efforts of our faculty, our parents are also committed to our school’s mission.  Parents are fully supportive of school goals and feel comfortable voicing their concerns and know administrators will do their best to help them find solutions and work towards continuous growth. We truly try to bring Islam and education together everyday.