IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

The Prevalence of Written Plans for a Pandemic Disease Scenario in Public Schools

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our daily lives in unprecedented ways and raised questions about how prepared our institutions, including our public schools, are for a national health crisis. The School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), which collects data from a nationally representative sample of 4,800 K–12 public schools, asks schools to report on whether or not they have a written plan that describes the procedures to be performed in select scenarios. Data from the 2017–18 SSOCS show a strong majority of the nation’s schools have a written plan for certain emergency scenarios, such as natural disasters, active shooters, and bomb threats, but fewer than half have a written plan for a pandemic disease.

Schools can play an important role in slowing the spread of diseases and protecting vulnerable students and staff, in part by implementing strategies to help ensure safe and healthy learning environments.[1] The close proximity of students and staff in classroom settings can increase the risk of community transmission of diseases, which is why schools should work in close collaboration and coordination with local health departments on decisions related to determining risks and implementing school-based strategies. One aspect of school efforts to maintain safety is to have a plan in place for procedures to prevent and mitigate the spread of diseases. These plans may include guidelines on prevention efforts; coordination with local health officials; cleaning and disinfecting school spaces; communicating with staff, parents, and students; making decisions on short- and long-term dismissal of students; and implementing strategies to continue education and other supports for students.

Forty-six percent of public schools reported they had a written plan for procedures to be performed in the event of pandemic disease during the 2017–18 school year (figure 1). This percentage was lower than the percentage of schools reporting that they had written plans for every other type of scenario asked about in the SSOCS questionnaire with the exception of hostage scenarios, for which the percentage of schools with such a plan was not measurably different.


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools that had a written plan describing procedures to be performed in various crisis scenarios: School year 2017–18

1Examples of natural disasters provided to respondents were earthquakes or tornadoes.
2"Active shooter" was defined for respondents as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearm(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.
3Examples of chemical, biological, or radiological threats or incidents provided to respondents were the release of mustard gas, anthrax, smallpox, or radioactive materials.
NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018.


There were few measurable differences in the percentages of schools reporting plans for pandemic disease when looking across school characteristics. However, some differences were observed based on the enrollment size of the school. In 2017–18, the percentage of schools with enrollments of less than 300 students that reported having a written plan for pandemic disease (38 percent) was lower than the corresponding percentages of schools with enrollments of 300 to 499 students (48 percent), 500 to 999 students (48 percent), and 1,000 or more students (49 percent) (figure 2). However, in no enrollment size group did a majority of schools have a written plan.


Figure 2. Percentage of public schools that had a written plan describing procedures to be performed in a pandemic disease scenario, by enrollment size: School year 2017–18

NOTE: Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018.


Prior to the 2017–18 school year, SSOCS asked schools about written plans for pandemic flu, rather than pandemic disease. While comparisons of these prior estimates to the 2017–18 estimates on pandemic disease plans should be made with caution, reviewing previous estimates for pandemic flu plans may provide some insight into how schools may have been prepared for similar outbreaks in the past.

Estimates of schools’ reports of written plans for pandemic flu followed no clear pattern between the 2007–08 and 2015–16 school years. Fifty-one percent of schools reported having a plan for pandemic flu in 2015–16, which was lower than the percentage that reported such a plan in 2009–10 (69 percent)[2] but higher than the percentage that reported such plan in 2007–08 (36 percent) (figure 3).


Figure 3. Percentage of public schools that had a written plan describing procedures to be performed in a pandemic flu or pandemic disease scenario, by school year: Selected years, 2007–08 to 2017–18

NOTE: SSOCS:2008, SSOCS:2010, and SSOCS:2016 asked schools to report on whether or not their school had a written plan to be performed in the scenario of pandemic flu, while the item was modified for SSOCS:2018 to ask schools about written plans for pandemic disease. Due to this change, comparisons of estimates between SSOCS:2018 and earlier years should be made with caution. Responses were provided by the principal or the person most knowledgeable about school crime and policies to provide a safe environment.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2018.


You can find more information on these and other data from the School Survey on Crime and Safety in NCES publications, including Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: Findings From the School Survey on Crime and Safety: 2017–18 and the Digest of Education Statistics, table 233.65.

 

By Jana Kemp, AIR

 


[1]Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Interim Guidance for Administrators of US K–12 Schools and Childcare Programs. Retrieved March 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/guidance-for-schools.html.

[2]From April 2009 to April 2010, a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus pandemic occurred in the United States and across the world; schools’ reports of plans for pandemic flu during the 2009–10 school year may reflect heightened awareness and responses to the H1N1 pandemic. See https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/2009-h1n1-pandemic.html for more information.

NCES Releases Two Short Reports on Shortened School Weeks and High School Start Times

Recently, NCES released two short analyses using data from the 2017–18 National Teacher and Principal Survey.

The first report focuses on the practice of shortened school weeks in U.S. public schools. About 1.9 percent of public schools in the United States operate on a shortened-week schedule (less than 5 days per week). Some of the reasons school districts operate schools on such schedules include attracting high-quality teachers and reducing costs. The report finds that shortened school weeks are more prevalent at rural, western, and smaller schools, and this practice varies by state.



The second report focuses on high school start times. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to give students the opportunity to get a sufficient amount of sleep. The report looks at average public high school start times by various school characteristics and state. Findings include the following:

  • A higher percentage of public high schools in cities (26 percent) than of those in suburban (18 percent), town (13 percent), and rural (11 percent) areas reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.
     
  • A higher percentage of charter schools (24 percent) than of traditional public schools (17 percent) reported a school starting time of 8:30 a.m. or later.

Both reports are based on data collected by NCES as part of the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). NTPS is a nationally representative survey of teachers and principals from public and private schools, and for the public sector, NTPS is state representative. NTPS uses scientifically proven methods to select a small sample of school faculty to provide information about major education issues related to school and staffing characteristics while minimizing the burden on teacher and principal communities. Without the cooperation and participation of districts and their teachers and principals, reports such as these could not be produced.

 

By Cris de Brey, NCES

New Report Highlights Progress and Challenges in U.S. High School Dropout and Completion Rates

A new NCES report has some good news about overall high school dropout and completion rates, but it also highlights some areas of concern.

Using a broad range of data, the recently released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States report shows that the educational attainment of young adults has risen in recent decades. The public high school graduation rate is up, and the status dropout rate (the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and have not completed high school) is down. Despite these encouraging trends, there are significant disparities in educational attainment among young adults in the United States. The report shines new light on these disparities by analyzing detailed data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

For large population groups, the report provides status dropout rates calculated using annual data from the American Community Survey (ACS), administered by the U.S. Census Bureau. For example, in 2017, some 5.4 percent of 16- to 24-year-olds who were not enrolled in high school lacked a high school diploma or equivalent credential.

For smaller population groups, there are not enough ACS respondents during any given year to allow for precise and reliable estimates of the high school status dropout rate. For these demographic subgroups, NCES pools the data from 5 years of the ACS in order to obtain enough respondents to accurately describe patterns in the dropout rate.

For example, while the overall status dropout rate for Asian 16- to 24-year-olds was below the national average in 2017, the rates for specific subgroups of Asian young adults varied widely. Based on 5 years of ACS data, high school status dropout rates among Asian 16- to 24-year-olds ranged from 1.1 percent for individuals of Korean descent to 23.2 percent for individuals of Burmese descent. These rates represent the “average” status dropout rate for the period from 2013 to 2017. They offer greater precision than the 1-year estimates, but the 5-year time span might make them difficult to interpret at first glance. 

 


Figure 1. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by selected Asian subgroups: 2013–2017

‡ Reporting standards not met. Either there are too few cases for a reliable estimate or the coefficient of variation (CV) is 50 percent or greater.
If the estimation procedure were repeated many times, 95 percent of the calculated confidence intervals would contain the true status dropout rate for the population group.
NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. This figure presents 5-year average status dropout rates for the period from 2013 to 2017. Use of a 5-year average increases the sample size, thereby reducing the sampling error and producing more stable estimates. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States, including both noninstitutionalized persons (e.g., those living in households, college housing, or military housing located within the United States) and institutionalized persons (e.g., those living in prisons, nursing facilities, or other healthcare facilities). Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations. Asian subgroups exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2013–2017.


 

The 5-year ACS data can also be used to describe status dropout rates for smaller geographic areas with more precision than the annual ACS data. For example, the average 2013–2017 status dropout rates ranged from 3.8 percent in Massachusetts to 9.6 percent in Louisiana. The 5-year ACS data allowed us to calculate more accurate status dropout rates for each state and, in many cases, for racial/ethnic subgroups within the state. Access the complete state-level dropout rates by race/ethnicity here.
 


Figure 2. Percentage of high school dropouts among persons 16 through 24 years old (status dropout rate), by state: 2013–2017

NOTE: “Status” dropouts are 16- to 24-year-olds who are not enrolled in school and who have not completed a high school program, regardless of when they left school. People who received an alternative credential such as a GED are counted as high school completers. This figure presents 5-year average status dropout rates for the period from 2013 to 2017. Use of a 5-year average increases the sample size, thereby reducing the sampling error and producing more stable estimates. Data are based on sample surveys of the entire population of 16- to 24-year-olds residing within the United States, including both noninstitutionalized persons (e.g., those living in households, college housing, or military housing located within the United States) and institutionalized persons (e.g., those living in prisons, nursing facilities, or other healthcare facilities). Estimates may differ from those based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) because of differences in survey design and target populations.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2013–2017. See table 2.3.


 

For more information about high school dropout and completion rates, check out the recently released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States report. For more information about the 5-year ACS datasets, visit https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/guidance/estimates.html.

 

By Joel McFarland

NCES’s Top Hits of 2019

As 2019 comes to an end, we’re taking stock of NCES’s most downloaded reports, most viewed indicators, Fast Facts, and blog posts, and most engaging tweets over the past year. As you reflect on 2019 and kick off 2020, we encourage you to take a few minutes to explore the wide range of education data NCES produces.

 

Top Five Reports, by PDF downloads

1. Condition of Education 2019 (8,526)

2. Condition of Education 2018 (5,789)

3Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 (4,743)

4. Student Reports of Bullying: Results From the 2015 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (4,587)

5. Digest of Education Statistics 2017 (4,554)

 

Top Five indicators from the Condition of Education, by number of web sessions

1. Children and Youth With Disabilities (86,084)

2. Public High School Graduation Rates (68,977)

3. Undergraduate Enrollment (58,494)

4. English Language Learners in Public Schools (50,789)

5. Education Expenditures by Country (43,474)

 

Top Five Fast Facts, by number of web sessions

1. Back to School Statistics (227,510)

2. College Graduate Rates (109,617)

3. Tuition Costs of Colleges and Universities (107,895)

4. College Endowments (71,056)

5. High School Dropout Rates (67,408)

 

Top Five Blog Posts, by number of web sessions

1. Free or Reduced Price Lunch: A Proxy for Poverty? (5,522)

2. Explore Data on Mental Health Services in K–12 Public Schools for Mental Health Awareness Month (4,311)

3. Educational Attainment Differences by Students’ Socioeconomic Status (3,903)

4. Education and Training Opportunities in America’s Prisons (3,877)

5. Measuring Student Safety: Bullying Rates at School (3,706)

 

Top Five Tweets, by number of impressions

1. Condition of Education (45,408 impressions)

 

2. School Choice in the United States (44,097 impressions)

 

3. NAEP Music and Visual Arts Assessment (32,440 impressions)

 

4. International Education Week (29,997 impressions)

 

5. Pop Quiz (25,188 impressions)

 

Be sure to check our blog site and the NCES website in 2020 to keep up-to-date with NCES’s latest activities and releases. You can also follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for daily updates and content.

 

By Thomas Snyder

Higher Rates of Homeschooled Students Than Enrolled Students Participated in Family Learning Activities in 2016

About 3 percent of the school-age population—around 1.7 million students—was homeschooled in 2016. We know that homeschooled students have different educational experiences than students who are enrolled in public or private schools, and recently released data explore some of those differences.

The Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES) provides information on homeschooled and public and private school students based on a nationally representative sample. Parents provide information about their children’s formal education and learning activities outside of school.

The survey asks about six broad types of family learning activities that students experienced in the month prior to the survey. The 2016 results indicate that homeschooled students were more likely than their peers enrolled in public or private schools to participate in five of these six activities.

In 2016, higher percentages of homeschooled students than of students enrolled in public or private schools visited a library; a bookstore; an art gallery, museum, or historical site; and a zoo or aquarium in the month prior to completion of the survey (figure 1). A higher percentage of homeschooled students also attended an event sponsored by a community, religious, or ethnic group with their parents in the month prior to completion of the survey. The one activity for which there was no measurable difference between homeschooled and students enrolled in public or private schools was going to a play, concert, or other live show.

 


Figure 1. Percentage of 5- to 17-year-old students participating in selected family learning activities in the past month, by homeschool and enrollment status: 2016

 

NOTE: Includes 5- to 17-year-old students in grades or grade equivalents of kindergarten through grade 12. Homeschooled students are school-age children who receive instruction at home instead of at a public or private school either all or most of the time. Excludes students who were enrolled in public or private school more than 25 hours per week and students who were homeschooled only because of temporary illness. Selected activities with the child may have included any member of the household.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey of the National Household Education Surveys Program (PFI-NHES), 2016.


 

The NHES data do not tell us why these differences exist, but parents’ availability of time and parenting style may be a factor. However, more research is needed to understand these differences.

A recent report, Homeschooling in the United States: Results from the 2012 and 2016 Parent and Family Involvement Survey (PFI-NHES:2012 and 2016), provides the full complement of data from the NHES about homeschoolers’ experiences in 2016. In addition to family learning activities, the report provides information about the following:
 

  • Homeschooler demographics

  • Reasons for homeschooling

  • Providers of homeschool instruction

  • Amount of time homeschoolers spent attending public schools, private schools, or college

  • Participation in local homeschool group activities

  • Homeschool teaching styles

  • Sources of homeschool curriculum and books

  • Online coursetaking of homeschool students

  • Homeschool subject areas

  • Parent expectations of homeschooled students’ future education
     

For more information on the National Household Education Surveys Program, please go to https://nces.ed.gov/nhes/.

 

By Sarah Grady