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About CalSCHLS

The purpose, content, and benefits of the CalSCHLS surveys

History and Purpose

The CalSCHLS system was created by the California Department of Education (CDE) in 1997 to efficiently and cost-effectively provide school districts and their partner communities with quality local data which can be used to improve student academic performance and social-emotional, behavioral, and physical health of all youth. It assesses key indicators linked to success in school, career, and life. The majority of districts in California now use CalSCHLS data as Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) indicators.

CalSCHLS began with:

All three surveys were developed by WestEd with the help of Duerr Evaluation Resources and expert advisory committees of educators, researchers, and practitioners. The staff and parent surveys were added to address the needs of districts for data on school working conditions, parent involvement, and enable comparison of staff and parent perspectives to student self-reports.

Designed as a flexible data system that meets multiple needs, all three surveys can be customized by combining different modules and adding questions. It is an ideal tool for collecting data on local priorities as part of a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

Although the primary purpose of the system is to provide district-level reports, most districts can request school-level data, including School Climate Report Cards.

The CalSCHLS system:

  • enables similar schools and districts to compare their results;
  • provides aggregated county and statewide data to guide policies and programmatic efforts at these broader geographic levels, and serve as norms for comparison to local results; and
  • creates a dataset about California youth, schools, and parents in order to improve understanding of the factors affecting successful school and youth outcomes and how they vary across the state.

Overview of Content

CalSCHLS, developed with the assistance of Expert Advisory Committees, is a research-based assessment of all the major domains of school climate as it affects students, staff, and parents:

  • student, teacher, and parent engagement;
  • school academic expectations and rigor;
  • student academic mindset and learning motivation;
  • positive interpersonal relationships among and between students, staff, and parents;
  • opportunities for meaningful participation, decision-making, and engagement;
  • school safety (social-emotional & physical), violence, victimization (bullying);
  • discipline and order; clarity of rules and behavioral expectations;
  • mental and physical health, including substance use, depression/suicide risk, and other health risks and learning barriers;
  • student social-emotional learning and development;
  • respect for diversity and equity;
  • school/district supports, services, and policies related to students, staff, and parents; and
  • school physical environment and facilities.

The content of the three surveys is aligned so that responses on common questions and summary measures can be compared across students, staff, and parents.

A unique feature of CalSCHLS is its strength-based focus and theoretical framework drawn from resilience and youth development research. It provides data on protective factors that mitigate against the effects of stress, trauma, and other risk factors.

Learn more about the California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS), the California School Staff Survey (CSSS), and the California School Parent Survey (CSPS).

Level of Use in California (2015-17)

The CalSCHLS Specifications includes the number of districts, schools, and students that currently participate in the surveys in California.

  • The CHKS was administered in over 70% of school districts and over 5,000 schools to 1.25 million students.
  • Although most districts administer the CHKS every other year, over one-quarter of districts administered it each year.
  • Almost one-third of districts also administered the CHKS School Climate module and one-fifth included a custom module. The great majority (85%) administer it online.
  • Over 400 districts administered the CSSS; 200 districts administered the CSPS.

Special Projects

The staff and student surveys have been widely used in research studies in the United States and internationally. The dataset is one of the most analyzed non-federal sources of information about adolescents in the nation because of its large size, content coverage, and psychometric quality. The CalSCHLS system is a valuable source of data that has been used to guide the work of educational, prevention, and health projects and programs in school, afterschool, and community settings.

These projects address a wide range of topics, including:

  • racial/ethnic group disparities;
  • special education;
  • migrant education;
  • mental health; and
  • military connnected families.

To read more, see Special Projects and CalSCHLS Research Reader.

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