FAQs & Fees for California Participants

Why should valuable instruction time be used to administer this survey after the Title IV requirement ends?

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Because it is important. A detailed rationale is provided in the CHKS Administration Guidebook (pdf). For school boards and personnel, the strongest reasons are:

  • CHKS assesses key school climate, and student health and behavioral factors that research has linked to academic performance, including test-score improvement, and positive youth development and well-being. It is a valuable tool for any school improvement effort.
  • Reducing health and learning engagement barriers identified by CHKS may improve school attendance and, thus, the ADA funding that the schools receive.
  • CHKS provides needs-assessment data that is valuable, and often required for obtaining federal and state competitive program funding, such as the California Tobacco Use Prevention Education (TUPE) program.
  • CHKS is a very cost-effective method for collecting data schools need. Schools can customize the survey and add questions of their own selection, and the cost of conducting the CHKS includes the California School Climate Survey for staff. The recently developed California School Parent Survey can also be added at low cost.

Why is the survey conducted in grades 5, 7, 9, and 11?

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It is important that schools collect grade-level data (rather than use a general high-school sample) because most health-risk behaviors increase or change with age. Understanding developmental differences is critical to implementing better programs that target each age group. CHKS targets every other grade in order to help reduce costs and disruptions, and to provide convenient benchmarks.

These grade levels were selected for several reasons:

  • Transition years. CHKS targets major transition years in the developmental lives of adolescents that have been correlated with risk behavior. Grade 7 (approximately age 12) is often the beginning of secondary school, and is the last preteen year. Grade 9 (age 14) is typically the first year of senior high school, and is a time when prevalence of AOD use can increase to substantial levels.
  • Baseline data needs. Grades 5 and 7 are natural baselines for comparisons within teenage populations. Levels of risk behaviors are generally low at these grades, making it possible to identify the age of initiation. Grade 11 was selected because research shows that virtually all students initiating AOD use in secondary school will have done so by the end of grade 11. By grade 12, many students who are at highest risk have dropped out.

What are the requirements for my district if Title IV (Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities) funding ends?

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If the district is still receiving any funding, including carry-over of 2009-10 funding it is still required to conduct the CHKS in grades 5, 7, 9 and 11 as previously, according to the requirements listed below. This is also true for districts that receive any state TUPE funding. If you also intend to apply for a TUPE grant, you will need CHKS data for the grade-levels in the application. However, to reduce the survey burden on districts that are no longer receiving Title IV funds, CDE encourages districts to continue survey administration in the minimum grade-levels of 7 and 9, although schools can elect to survey other grades as well.

Why can’t I administer the survey, or parts of it, on my own?

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The California Department of Education and its partners fund the CHKS not only because it is important that LEAs have their own data, but also to obtain a dataset of comparable results across LEAs for analysis at the state level. Analysis of the statewide dataset has significantly increased identification of, and knowledge about youth who are most at risk of school and health problems. Many of these analyses were conducted on groups that are too small at the individual district level to assess, such as youth in foster care or the homeless. To preserve this purpose and benefit of the CHKS, it is essential that the CHKS contractor processes and aggregates all data, and that all participants administer at least the Core Module of key indicators. Finally, the CHKS is copyright protected, and reproduction without permission is prohibited.

How do I know if I've surveyed enough students to have representative data?

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California Department of Education (CDE) requires that a survey must meet the following minimum standards to insure that the data are representative and valid. Districts that ultimately meet standards 1, 2, and 3, and EITHER standard 4 or 5 will be certified by CDE as having collected representative data.

  1. 100% of all district schools participated; or 100% of all selected schools participated in an approved sampling plan.
  2. An appropriate class subject or class period was identified and used.
  3. 100% of selected classrooms participated.
  4. The number of completed, usable answer forms obtained per grade was 60% or more of the selected sample, or
  5. If active parental consent is used, 70% or more parents within each grade's selected sample returned signed permission forms, either consenting or not consenting to their child's participation.

This information will be available to CDE, which intends to use it in making grant-funding decisions. Those districts that proceed in good faith, but nevertheless end up slightly short of meeting these standards will be considered borderline. Borderline is defined as falling short of the standard by no more than 10 percentage points. For example, a district that only received between 50% and 60% usable answer forms for 7th grade students, or where only 90% - 100% of the selected schools in the district participated in the survey would be considered borderline.

Please note that though you may meet all of CDE's standards, your data may not be representative enough to constitute a high-quality sample. For example, though Standard 5 ensures a high consent rate, your actual response rate may still be low. Response rates of 70% or more are strongly recommended in order to obtain valid, representative data.

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State law requires the parents, at a minimum, be notified of a CHKS administration and be offered the opportunity to grant or withhold consent. There are two kinds of parent consent: passive and active.

Active Consent requires that a parent or legal guardian has expressly provided written permission for their child to participate in the CHKS. If a permission form is not returned, the school or district must assume that parental permission has not been granted.

CDE requires that Active Consent be used for all administrations of the CHKS in grades below 7th. Active Consent is optional in grades 7-12.

Passive Consent is written notice sent to parents/guardians about the survey, who in turn notify the school ONLY if they do not want their child to participate in the survey. No return from the parent or guardian allows a child to be surveyed.

Passive Consent is an optional choice for grades 7-12 only, and only when certain standards—described in detail in the Guidebook—have been met.

Regardless of which consent option is selected, the school board must formally adopt, in consultation with parents, a consent policy for the administration of the CHKS.

How will data be reported?

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District Level reports are a standard product of conducting the survey. There are two types of standard reports, a Main Report and a Key Findings section. The Main Report summarizes all survey responses by grade level, with accompanying explanatory text. The Key Findings section highlights important questions and compares them to state and national averages from other surveys, and also provides a graphical view of the data. On request, graphic charts for reports and presentations can be developed for custom questions.

Interested districts can also order (at extra cost) school-level reports, which provide the same level of detail as the Main Report but for individual schools. Every two years Cal-SCHLS also produces and publicly posts an aggregated report of results for every county. For those who want to explore their data in greater detail, complete raw data sets can be requested when certain conditions to assure student confidentiality are met.

Who will have access to survey results and how will they be kept confidential?

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District Main Reports and Key Findings are publicly posted on the CHKS website, but not until the school year following their being sent to the district. Results of the survey are also subject to the California Public Records Act and may be available to the public (if requested). All external requests for data will be referred back to the designated district, county, or organizational contact person. A County Office of Education (COE) must notify districts of requests for county-level data. COEs will not be granted access to district- and school-level data unless permission is obtained from each individual district.

The aggregated state-level data set will be available to public and research agencies for analyses under strict conditions of confidentiality. No school identification information will be included in a dataset unless a Memorandum of Understanding is signed with CDE that the results of any analyses will not be released in any way that will enable a school to be identified without district approval.

How is confidentiality maintained for small Local Education Agencies (LEAs)?

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CHKS staff take the utmost care in ensuring that student confidentiality is maintained at all times, even in the smallest LEAs and schools. To protect confidentiality, no data from any school level will be released if there are fewer than ten student respondents to the survey. In addition, CHKS reports do not provide student demographic information in cases where there are between 11 and 24 students. Although it is highly unlikely, even when these precautions and strict standards are in place, it is possible that public examination of the results of a survey might enable someone to deduce the identity of a respondent or group of respondents. To avoid having unreported data, CDE advises working with your COE SDFSC/TUPE Coordinator to administer the survey with a consortium of small LEAs. Working with WestEd, the results can be reported on a consortium-wide or countywide basis, if the LEA and/or WestEd believe that reporting at the LEA level could breach confidentiality. While reporting CHKS results aggregated at a higher level may be less meaningful for the district and the public, it may be necessary in order to maintain the confidentiality of the respondents.

Are the rights of students and parents protected?

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Yes, absolutely. Special attention has been paid to ensuring the confidentiality and privacy of the data, and that all student and parent rights are met.

  • The survey is in full compliance with all state (California) and federal regulations.
  • Active (written) consent of a parent or guardian is required for grades below seven; passive or active consent is required for grades seven and above.
  • Participation is totally voluntary. No student in the selected classroom is required to take the survey. Even if parents consent, the student may still refuse to participate. In addition, students do not have to answer every question once they begin the survey.
  • In California the Protection of Pupil Rights Act (PPRA) now requires Local Education Agencies to establish procedures for notification of parents of their right to inspect the CHKS and procedures for granting access to the CHKS within a reasonable time after the request is received.

Are the results valid – will our results reflect what is really happening with our students?

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Yes. Research has provided strong evidence that data from adolescents on self-report questionnaires are valid, providing that certain criteria are met. Among those criteria, anonymity has been shown to make a critical contribution in securing valid responses from adolescents on self-report surveys like the CHKS. The CHKS meets the anonymity criterion, as well as other validity criteria such as alternate forms of questions and cross-checks to determine how truthful each respondent has been. For more information about validity issues on self-report surveys, read The Validity of Student Self-Reports of Risk Behaviors (pdf).

Will the survey generate controversy?

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Some people may find some of the questions sensitive or controversial. The CHKS Guidebook: Data Use and Dissemination (pdf) discusses how to address these concerns.

Should we Request School-Level Reports?

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The focus of the CHKS in California is on providing representative, district-level data and reports. However, almost all districts survey all students in all schools, making them eligible for school-level reports as well (extra fee applies). There are many positive reasons why a Local Education Agency may want data from individual schools, especially if the schools differ markedly in demographics, other characteristics, or programs. Sometimes schools have concerns about being compared. The assumption is often made that the news will reflect poorly on the school, and that some schools will suffer from this exposure. If schools have concerns about this, the major benefits to stress are:

  • The survey results will reflect the combined influence of media, parents, community organizations, and peers, as well as schools, on student behaviors.
  • The CHKS requests information to understand the impact of strategies and programs, not to identify specific schools with problems. The survey results will provide guidance for improving health programs and services to help staff strengthen programs.
  • Results often highlight successes. The survey is called "Healthy Kids" precisely to highlight a positive message, rather than focus on problem or bad behavior.
  • Specific differences that are discovered are important to guiding a more effective allocation of resources and program development that targets the unique needs of each school.

Can this survey be used as an evaluation tool for a specific program?

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The CHKS is not a complete evaluation tool in itself, but it can be a valuable component of an overall evaluation strategy. This will likely require a modification of the sampling plan and the addition of program-specific questions in a custom module. Local Education Agencies should consult an evaluator to determine program needs and how the CHKS can assist in meeting them. CHKS staff will then help develop the sampling plan. The CHKS staff can also provide evaluation assistance as a separate, custom service.

What will be the cost to my district?

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The CHKS is designed to reduce the difficulties, effort, and cost of conducting a health-risk survey. However, by necessity, some local-site functions must be conducted by district and school staff, such as local survey planning, parent consent, and administration. In California costs are largely supported by the CDE. Because these funds are limited and need to be distributed equitably, each Local Education Agency also must be responsible for the per student cost for the questionnaires and processing answer forms, as well as any custom requests. Contact your Cal-SCHLS Regional Center for a complete outline of related fees and services, or view the CHKS Fee Schedule below.

Nearly all districts in California pay fees well below $1,000 every two years for the combined CHKS and CSCS.

Fee Schedule
For information about the cost of administering the CHKS, download the 2014-15 fee schedule (pdf).

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