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Preparing for the Surveys

The following 10 steps provide resources and information to assist you in preparing for the surveys (experienced Coordinators may wish to go directly to the Survey Administration Instructions).


Identify a District Coordinator who will be responsible for planning and administering the CalSCHLS at all participating schools in a district. It is essential for the Coordinator to regularly monitor and make frequent follow-up calls to check on the status of each task at each school — and stay in contact with the CalSCHLS Technical Advisor.



In most districts, the surveys will require authorization from the district superintendent and/or the school board. Some districts require the superintendent's signature on the MOU. Even if this is not required, it is important to keep them informed about the surveys. Superintendents often receive inquiries from parents and reporters and they need to know the following:

  • The survey content (especially sensitive questions).
  • The procedures for protecting parents' and pupils' rights, including parental consent.
  • The costs to the district. The Frequently Asked Questions will help you respond to likely concerns.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of district policies related to surveys such as the CalSCHLS, including whether you need approval from an Institutional Review Board.


An advisory committee of influential school and community leaders can be a tremendous advantage in planning and conducting the surveys, in identifying local concerns to address, in gaining broad support, and, later, in determining how to address the needs that are identified by the survey results. The best approach is to draw upon an existing group that advises on school improvement or student supports. Make sure there is broad representation from stakeholders such as the following:

  • Students, teachers, principals, School Site Council members, and other individuals who will be involved in the survey process.
  • School board members and the district superintendent.
  • Key district administrators, such as the Title I or other categorical program directors, the director of curriculum and instruction, and the director of student services or pupil supports.


Each survey has a Core Module of key questions that CDE requires. You can customize your survey by adding supplemental modules or by creating a Custom Module of additional questions of your own choosing. In planning your surveys and selecting survey modules, work with the advisory committee and superintendent to identify local concerns and issues that need to be taken into consideration and potential data needs and uses. Among the topics you should discuss are:

  • How the data from the surveys can support the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan.
  • Which surveys to administer (student, staff, parent) and which supplemental and/or custom modules.
  • Tentative administration dates.


Parents/guardians must be notified in writing about the CHKS and be given a reasonable opportunity to decline their child’s participation. The Parental Consent section provides detailed instructions and sample modifiable forms to make this process go smoothly and obtain a high level of consent.

For the basic Core CHKS, state regulations require “active” or written consent in 6th grade and lower and “passive” consent in grades 7 through 12. Consider including parental consents with back to school enrollment packages or sending them early in the school year well in advance of the survey.

As a requirement of informed parental consent (whether active or passive) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Act, the CHKS must be conveniently available for parents to review. This also helps allay concerns about the survey content. Similarly, posting the staff and parent surveys shows transparency and allows staff and parents to see how the three surveys are related.


The student, staff, and parent survey may be administered online. The student and parent surveys may also be administered in print. The following describes the pros and cons of print versus online administration.

Student Survey

Online survey administration involves less district labor and cost, time for students to complete, and time for the CalSCHLS Regional Center to process your data and provide you with a report. The online survey can be optimized for desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone formats. The print version takes more time to complete and process because it requires a separate scannable answer form.

Parent Survey

The parent survey is available in multiple languages. The online survey can be optimized for desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone formats. The print version is a single scannable booklet (questions and answers together). Print administration does involve more cost and labor in survey distribution and collection.


Student Survey

Minimally, the CDE requires participating districts to administer the CHKS in 7th and 9th grade but recommends 5th and 11th as well. Most districts will need to survey all students in each recommended grade in all their schools to have representative district data. Larger districts with 900 or more students per grade may contact their Technical Advisor to discuss a possible sampling plan.

Staff Survey

All staff within all participating schools should be given the staff survey in order to have confidence that the results are truly representative or valid of all staff perceptions (not biased). For staff working at multiple sites, it is up to them to decide whether they have enough knowledge/experience at a school to fill out the survey. It may be inappropriate for off-site staff such as bus drivers and district personnel to take the survey, as they are not tied to a specific school site. Contact your Technical Advisor if you have questions about whether to include certain staff in your survey.

Parent Survey

The CSPS should be offered to all parents, guardians, or other caregivers in a school or district. The survey can be filled out by parents together or just by one of them. If a parent has more than one child at a school site, the parent is instructed to complete only one survey per school, thinking about their oldest child at the school.


Establish a general time period in which you will administer the surveys within the district. Later, work with the School Coordinators to set up specific, convenient dates for each school within that period. Student, staff, and parent surveys don’t have to be administered all on the same days, but when possible they should be administered in close proximity. Start by selecting the date(s) for the student survey, as it involves the most planning.

Student Survey

The date selected for the CHKS may affect student participation and survey results in several ways. In general, select dates that do not conflict with other school activities, particularly testing and field trips. Use the following guidelines:

  • Fall Surveys. October through December is a good time because these are months less likely to conflict with scheduled testing.
  • Spring Surveys. Ideally, administer the survey no later than April to avoid busy school schedules, academic testing, and decreased attendance rates.
  • Holiday Periods. Avoid administration after a long school break — particularly right after the winter holiday — because this may affect 30-day prevalence rates.
  • Special Events. Do not administer the survey during a special event.
  • Poor Attendance Days. Avoid administering the survey on Monday or Friday when possible.

In order to ensure representative data in secondary schools, the survey should be administered in a required class attended by all enrolled students. Experience shows that the best required class subjects are English or Health for 7th and 9th grade and English or History for 11th grade.


Participation by students, staff, and parents is voluntary. It is very important to encourage high survey participation to ensure that the data are representative. Thoroughly inform students, staff, and parents about the survey’s purpose and value well in advance of administration. A letter of support from the superintendent is useful for obtaining survey buy-in from principals, school staff, and parents, which helps increase participation. When you conduct the survey administration training for your school site staff be sure to build enthusiasm for the survey.

Among the points to stress are:

  • The value of the survey data for addressing the needs of students, improving the learning and teaching conditions, and addressing LCAP requirements.
  • The opportunity it provides students, staff, and parents to confidentially communicate their perceptions and concerns about the school and its environment.
  • The district's commitment to taking the data seriously and including the students, staff, and parents in the process of identifying and addressing the needs at each school.

Here are some general strategies to further help boost awareness, support, and participation:

  • Review the Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Conduct all three surveys around the same time.
  • Use multiple communication venues (newsletters, meetings, telephone messages, etc.)
  • Provide a letter of support from the superintendent or school board.
  • Have the principal encourage participation at staff and parent meetings.
  • Stress assurances of anonymity and confidentiality.
  • Frequently remind them of the survey dates.
  • Share the survey results with participating groups.
  • Show stakeholders how the data has been used to guide decision-making and the improvements that have resulted.
  • Thank the School Coordinator and teachers in advance for their cooperation.

Staff Survey

  • Have principal communicate the importance of staff taking the survey.
  • Provide release time for the survey.
  • Make computers available for classified staff.
  • Offer incentives.
  • Conduct a raffle: Ask each staff person to print out the last page of the online survey as proof of participation.

Parent Survey

  • Send link and/or paper survey to parents at the same time as parental consents and information letters.
  • Offer during parent/teacher conferences, open house, back to school night, etc.
  • Use the district automated telephone and text system to remind the parents to take the survey.
  • Offer incentives: Every parent that turns in a completed parent survey will get a raffle ticket.
  • Returned survey earns free admission to sporting event, concert, or performance.
  • Give parents multiple options to return paper surveys:

» Use a postage-paid return envelope for surveys you mail out.
» Consider assigning someone, perhaps a parent volunteer, to collect surveys during school drop-off and pick-up.
» Send to school with the student in a sealed envelope.
» Provide a drop-off box.