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Special Projects

The CalSCHLS system has been used in a variety of projects funded by local, state, and federal agencies. These include assessing the needs of subgroups of youth (e.g., racial/ethnic groups, participants in special education and migrant education programs, and students in military-connected families) and providing data to support school, afterschool, and community improvement efforts. Many of these projects involved creating supplementary modules and special reports.

Example Projects

Afterschool Data Project

California Department of Education, Extended Learning Division, 2004-07, 2017-present

As part of an Afterschool Data System for 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) that was implemented by the California Department of Education (CDE) in 2004 through 2006, questions were added to the CHKS to assess student participation in afterschool programs. A related Afterschool Program Survey administered to participants included questions on program experiences and attitudes. CDE required that all 21st CCLC grantees in the state administer the survey during this period to their program participants and provided them technical assistance in collecting the data and generating local and aggregated state-level reports. As part of this project, CHKS data were analyzed to determine differences between afterschool participants and nonparticipants and differences in outcomes based on frequency of attendance.

In 2017, CDE again funded analysis of CHKS data to compare the characteristics of program participants versus nonparticipants, as well as outcomes at the school-level. This is part of a larger, first-ever, comprehensive analysis of statewide data on the characteristics and outcomes of students participating in the CDE-funded Extended Learning programs, which includes an assessment of how to improve data to guide continuous program quality improvement.

Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools

University of Southern California and Department of Defense Education Activity, 2011-2015

In 2010, the White House made a commitment to support military families as a top national security policy. In response to this initiative, the University of Southern California and a consortium of eight school districts in the Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools Consortium, undertook to assess and address the needs of military-connected students, schools, and parents using the CalSCHLS surveys. For each survey, a Military-Connected Schools Module was developed that allowed consortium schools to gather anonymously the views of students, parents, teachers, and administrators about their schools and the educational, developmental, and health-related needs of their students. Their collective voices were used to establish sustainable military-friendly school climates that improve social, behavioral, and academic outcomes. These modules are available online to any school interested in including them in their CalSCHLS administration.

Building Healthy Communities

The California Endowment, 2010-present

In 2010, The California Endowment launched a 10-year Building Healthy Communities (BHC) strategic plan designed to improve health systems and the physical, social, economic, and service structures that support healthy living and behaviors in 14 underserved California communities. The initiative involves two interrelated processes: (1) fostering place-based partnerships to improve environments, policies, and health outcomes for children in the 14 selected communities, and (2) elevating the experience of local communities to inform regional, state, and national policy decisions that will help institutionalize and take to scale successful local practices that lead to systemic changes and positive outcomes.

The CalSCHLS surveys are used as part of a systemic effort to foster collaborative, school-community, data-driven decision-making and knowledge management in the area of adolescent health and education. The work involves four main tasks:

  • to provide better data to guide BHC decision-making, a supplementary CHKS Building Healthy Communities Module was developed to assess priority indicators not covered by the Core CHKS Module, particularly in regard to the community at large. It assesses how school and community environments contribute to ensuring that students are safe, healthy, and ready to learn;
  • to provide incentives to each of the districts within the 14 BHC Places to participate in CalSCHLS surveys;
  • to develop and provide reports of the results for all schools within the place boundary to each BHC Place and provide technical assistance in using the data;
  • to analyze aggregated BHC Place and statewide CalSCHLS data to determine how well grantees and the state overall is doing in meeting key outcome indicators that guide The California Endowment's work.

California Safe and Supportive Schools (CalS3)

California Department of Education, Coordinated School Health and Safety Office, 2010-2014.

In October 2010, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the California Department of Education (CDE) one of eleven four-year Safe and Supportive Schools grants to improve school climate in 58 high schools in the state with the highest needs based on their CalSCHLS data. The grant supported the creation of a state School Climate Index (SCI), which provided a measure of school climate and safety needs, and the development of a CalS3 website, which provides information on best practices in school climate improvement and a School Climate Connection newsletter. CDE awarded grants to the schools with the lowest SCI scores that successfully completed an application review process.

Technical assistance was provided to help funded schools understand and use their survey results for program decision-making, identify strategies and best practices to address pressing needs, and monitor progress in meeting those needs.

Closing the Achievement Gap

California Department of Education, 2008-2011

In his 2008 State of Education address, former State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O'Connell, announced that closing the achievement gap (CTAG) was the California Department of Education's (CDE) top priority, and directed that questions related to racial and cultural issues be added to the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and the California School Staff Survey (CSSS). CDE funded an expansion of the reporting system and materials to support the CTAG Initiative and improve the data on school culture and climate, especially in regard to subgroups that may be disaffected. This included:

Migrant Education Information Supports

The California Department of Education, Migrant Education Office, 2007-present

The California Department of Education's (CDE) 2007 Migrant Education Program Comprehensive Needs Assessment stressed the importance of having quality data concerning the needs of the almost 240,000 migrant students enrolled in 4,400 California schools, including the need for improved ways to identify them in data sources. The plan identified gaps in information about learning engagement and health-related learning barriers among migrant students. To provide data to help migrant education programs monitor these indicators and better identify, understand, and address the needs of migrant youth and program staff, CDE funded the development of the Migrant Education Support Information System (MESIS), based on an expansion of the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) and the California School Staff Survey (CSSS). Questions were added to the CHKS and CSSS asking students and staff to identify whether they are part of the local migrant education program or their parents meet the criteria for migrant status.

The purpose of MESIS was to:

  • provide districts that serve migrant students with reports that summarize their CHKS and CSSS survey results as reported by migrant program students and staff,
  • generate reports comparing migrant and nonmigrant students across the state,
  • raise awareness of the needs of migrant education students and the staff that provide them services, specifically in regard to learning engagement and health-related barriers to learning, and
  • better integrate migrant and general education.

After a funding hiatus until 2015, CalSCHLS again has been providing local and state-level reports examining the results for migrant education program participants compared to nonparticipants.

Project Cal-Well

California Department of Education, Coordinated School Support Division, 2014-present

Cal-Well is a five-year grant funded under the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's "Now is the Time" (NITT) Project - Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) State Educational Agency grants. Project Cal-Well aims to improve mental health awareness among students, parents, school and district staff, and communities; provide professional development that supports mental wellness to school and district personnel; and connect students and families to needed services. The grant funds the state and three collaborating school districts to develop a comprehensive, coordinated, and integrated partnership with multiple service systems to help address critical mental health needs of students.

A supplementary Cal-Well Module was developed by UC San Francisco for the California Healthy Kids Survey. Administered by the grantee districts and available for use by any school, it provides data on student mental health, the availability of adult and peer social supports, access to mental health services, and openness to utilizing mental health supports and services.

School Facilities Assessment

California Department of Education, Facilities Management Office, 2015-present

Four questions were added to the California Healthy Kids Survey to obtain student perceptions of the quality of their school's physical environment and facilities, including food service and water. The California Department of Education is provided a report describing how student reports of the quality of the school's physical environment relate to other characteristics of schools.

School Mental Health Promotion

California Department of Education, Counseling, Student Support, and Service-Learning Office, 2009-2012.

In collaboration with the California Department of Education's Counseling, Student Support, and Service-Learning Office, the CalSCHLS is working to provide better data to support school systems in establishing quality school mental health (SMH) programs. A growing body of research documents the relationship between youth mental health issues and academic failure, including increased risk of poor school attendance and lack of connectedness, as well as increased chances of victimization, substance use, and other health-risk behaviors. Comprehensive school programs that address the mental health needs of students and promote student well-being and positive development are critical to ensure student success in school and life.

CalSCHLS provides data and support materials to raise statewide awareness among school districts, state agencies, and stakeholders of child and adolescent mental health needs in California. The project also promotes local use of CalSCHLS data to guide district program planning efforts to address the mental health needs of students. The following data, reports, and resource tools were generated:

Special Education Supports System

California Department of Education, Special Education Division, 2008-2011

In 2007, California implemented a Strategic Action Plan which was broadly aimed at examining practices related to recruitment, training, and retention of staff who work with special education students. In order to improve special education services to students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) at the local level, more data was needed, particularly with regard to school climate, administrative support, and working conditions. To address this need, the California Department of Education (CDE) Division of Special Education funded an expansion of the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) to create a Special Education Supports Information System (SESIS) and funded the generation of reports analyzing the results.

As part of this project, questions were added to the survey to identify staff who have special education responsibilities and a supplemental Special Education Supports Module (SESM) was developed. The SESM was designed to be answered by all staff who have responsibilities for teaching or providing related support services to students with IEPs. It provides data about the perceptions and concerns of school special education personnel to guide program and service improvement, particularly in: (1) understanding how to effectively meet the needs of students and staff; and (2) recruiting, training, and retaining special education staff.

The specific goals of the project were to:

  • raise school and general public awareness of the needs of students with IEPs and the staff who provide services to them,
  • promote dialogue at the local, regional, and state level on meeting the above needs,
  • monitor and promote a better understanding of how well schools are implementing programs and services for students with IEPs,
  • help retain high quality special education staff and identify their needs,
  • promote special and general education collaboration, and
  • improve supports for special education in the broader CDE effort to close the racial/ethnic achievement gap and address issues of disproportionality.