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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.

New International Data Highlight Experiences of Teachers and Principals

The Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) 2018 surveyed lower secondary teachers and principals in the United States and 48 other education systems (in the United States, lower secondary is equivalent to grades 7–9). Following the release of volume 1 of the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report in 2019, volume 2 provides new data comparing teachers’ and principals’ opinions about job satisfaction, stress, salary, and autonomy.

According to the survey results, nearly a quarter of U.S. lower secondary teachers (26 percent) reported they had “a lot” of stress in their work. This was higher than the average across countries participating in TALIS (16 percent) (figure 1). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 35 education systems, lower than the percentage in 3 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 10 education systems. Across educations systems, the percentage of teachers who reported experiencing “a lot” of stress in their work ranged from 1 percent in the country of Georgia to 38 percent in England (see figure 8T in the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).


Figure 1. Percentage of lower secondary teachers in the United States and across TALIS education systems reporting that they experience “a lot” of stress in their work: 2018


Less than half of U.S. lower secondary teachers (41 percent) “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary, which was not measurably different from the TALIS average (39 percent) (figure 2). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 22 education systems, lower than the percentage in 17 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 9 education systems. The percentage of teachers who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary ranged widely across education systems, from 6 percent in Iceland to 76 percent in Alberta–Canada (see figure 10T in the TALIS 2018 U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).

About half of U.S. lower secondary principals (56 percent) “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary, which was not measurably different from the TALIS average (47 percent) (figure 2). The U.S. percentage was higher than the percentage in 15 education systems, lower than the percentage in 3 education systems, and not measurably different from the percentage in 29 education systems. As with teachers, the percentage of principals who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with their salary ranged widely across education systems, from 17 percent in Italy to 86 percent in Singapore (see figure 10P in the TALIS U.S. highlights web report, volume 2).


Figure 2. Percentage of lower secondary teachers and principals in the United States and across TALIS education systems who “agree” or “strongly agree” that they are satisfied with the salary they receive for their work: 2018


TALIS is conducted in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and is sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization of industrialized countries. Further information about TALIS can be found in the technical notes, questionnaires, list of participating OECD and non-OECD countries, and FAQs for the study. In addition, the two volumes of the OECD international reports are available on the OECD TALIS website.

 

By Tom Snyder, AIR; Ebru Erberber, AIR; and Mary Coleman, NCES

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

The High School and Beyond Midlife Study

Over the years, NCES has conducted several longitudinal studies that collect information on a representative cohort of high school students and follow the students’ outcomes through postsecondary education and/or entry into the workforce. These studies have led to important research on the educational trajectories of young adults.

But what happens after that? A recent data collection provides some answers by following up with survey participants later in life.

In 2014–15, the High School and Beyond (HS&B) Midlife Study collected information from a cohort of individuals in their early- to mid-50s, all of whom had first completed an HS&B survey in 1980 when they were in high school. By linking high school survey data with information collected 35 years later, this new collection offers an exciting opportunity to conduct research on the long-term outcomes of education.

Some preliminary research using the HS&B Midlife Study shows that high school and college experiences continue to play important roles in individuals’ lives into midlife.

 

Education (Grodsky and Doren 2015)

  • Between the ages of 28 and 50, a majority of cohort members (61 percent) enrolled in some sort of formal education, and in the process, they earned higher level degrees. By age 50,
     
    • 12 percent had earned a master’s, graduate, or professional degree, compared with 4 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned a bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared with 27 percent at age 28.
       
    • 36 percent had earned only a high school diploma or less, compared with 54 percent at age 28.
       
  • Gaps in educational attainment by gender, race/ethnicity, and parental education observed in early adulthood remained largely unchanged in midlife, with a notable exception:
     
    • A higher proportion of cohort adults whose parents had higher levels of education enrolled in graduate school between the ages of 28 and 50, which may be related to high school academic achievement (e.g., grades, test scores).

 

Labor Force Participation (Bosky 2019)

  • Men and women who took college preparatory math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or higher) had lower unemployment at midlife, even after controlling for whether they completed a bachelor’s degree. In addition,
     
    • Women who earned higher GPAs were employed at higher rates.
       
    • Men who scored higher on math achievement tests were employed at higher rates.
       
  • At midlife, the percentage of workers who held jobs with low pay and/or no health or retirement benefits was higher for women than for men, even among workers with similar levels of educational attainment. This gender gap was smaller among people who had taken advanced math coursework in high school (i.e., Algebra II or above).
     
  • Across levels of education, higher percentages of women than men experienced economic insecurity at midlife, as indicated by their perceived ability to pay for a large unexpected expense in the near-term. The percentage of women experiencing midlife economic insecurity was lower for those with a college degree than for those without a college degree. Also,
     
    • For people without a college degree, higher math achievement test scores were associated with lower rates of economic insecurity, even after controlling for work, health, and family characteristics at midlife.
       
    • A lower percentage of women who had taken college preparatory math coursework in high school were economically insecure at midlife, regardless of whether they had completed a bachelor’s degree.
       
    • A lower percentage of married women than unmarried women were economically insecure. This gap was largest among women without a college degree.

 

Health

  • Adolescents who took coursework that was more advanced in high school reported better health and physical functioning at midlife (Carroll et al. 2017).
     
  • Earning a bachelor’s degree by age 28 predicted body weight at midlife. This relationship differed by sex (Pattison 2019).
     
  • Mortality risk was higher among the following groups:
     
    • People who had not taken college preparatory math coursework in high school.
       
    • People with more frequent absences from high school. (Warren et al. 2017)
       

Survey data from the HS&B Midlife Study are now available for researchers. In order to protect the privacy of survey respondents, the dataset is available only to researchers who have a restricted-use data license. For more information about the survey, visit https://sites.utexas.edu/hsb/, and for more information on the restricted-use data program, visit https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp.  

 

Funding Acknowledgement

The 2014–2015 HS&B Midlife Study was supported by a combination of government and nongovernment sources, including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (Grant 2012-10-27), the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education (Grant R305U140001), and the National Science Foundation (Grants HRD1348527 and HRD1348557). It also benefited from direct funding from NORC at the University of Chicago and support provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to the University of Texas at Austin (R24-HD042849), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P2C-HD047873), and the University of Minnesota (P2C-HH041023).

 

References

Bosky, A.L. (2019). Academic Preparation in High School and Gendered Exposure to Economic Insecurity at Midlife (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76122/BOSKY-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Carroll, J.M., Muller, C., Grodsky, E., and Warren, J.R. (2017). Tracking Health Inequalities from High School to Midlife. Social Forces, 96(2): 591–628. doi: 10.1093/sf/sox065.

Grodsky, E., and Doren, C. (2015). Coming in to Focus: Education and Stratification at Midlife. Paper presented at the Invited Lecture at Columbia University, March 26, 2015, New York.

Pattison, E. (2019). Educational Stratification and Obesity in Midlife: Considering the Role of Sex, Social Class, and Race/Ethnicity (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repositories.lib.utexas.edu/bitstream/handle/2152/76097/PATTISON-DISSERTATION-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

Warren, J.R., Milesi, C., Grigorian, K., Humphries, M., Muller, C., and Grodsky, E. (2017). Do Inferences About Mortality Rates and Disparities Vary by Source of Mortality Information? Annals of Epidemiology, 27(2): 121–127. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2016.11.003.

 

By Chandra Muller, University of Texas at Austin, and Elise Christopher, NCES

Working Toward a Successful National Data Collection: The ECLS Field Test

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) conducts some of the most complex education surveys in the world, and we work hard to make these surveys as effective and efficient as possible. One way we make sure our surveys are successful is by conducting multiple tests before we fully launch a national data collection.

Even prior to a field test, NCES develops survey materials and procedures using much smaller-scale cognitive laboratory testing and focus-group processes. These initial development procedures help ensure that materials are clear and procedures are understood before we conduct field testing with larger and more representative groups of respondents. Then, we launch the field tests to test data-collection operations and survey processes and procedures. Field tests are small-scale surveys that include a range of respondents and are designed to test the survey questionnaires and survey administration procedures in a real-world situation prior to the launch of a major study. The field test results allow us to make any necessary adjustments before starting the national data collection. Field tests also allow us to test specific survey items and ensure that they are valid and reliable. Without a field test, we could risk spending the public’s time and money on large data-collection efforts that do not produce the intended information.

NCES is about to begin the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2022–23 (ECLS-K:2023) with a field test early this year. The ECLS-K:2023 will focus on children’s early school experiences, beginning with preschool and continuing through fifth grade. From the spring of 2022 through the spring of 2028, we will collect national study data from children and their parents, teachers, and school administrators to answer questions about children’s early learning and development, transition into kindergarten and beyond, and experiences in the elementary grades. 

Although the ECLS-K:2023 will be similar in many ways to prior ECLS kindergarten studies, we are adding a round of data collection prior to the children’s kindergarten year—the national spring 2022 preschool round. For this preschool survey, we’ll send an invitation to participate to a sample of residential addresses within selected areas of the United States. Potential participants will first be asked to fill out a brief screener questionnaire. If they report that an ECLS-eligible child is in the household, they will be asked additional important questions about early childhood topics, such as their child’s literacy, language, math, and social skills; activities done with the child in the home (e.g., singing songs, playing games, reading); and characteristics of any early care and education (i.e., child care) arrangements for the child.   

Because the ECLS-K:2023 preschool data need to be comprehensive and reliable so that they can inform public discussions and policies related to early elementary education, it’s crucial that we test our procedures and questions for this new preschool round by conducting a field test in early 2020.  

If you receive a letter about participating in the 2020 ECLS field test, you’re being selected to represent thousands of households like yours and provide NCES with the data we need to make decisions about how to best conduct the ECLS-K:2023. The participation of all the selected households who receive our mailings, even those without children, is essential for a successful field test and, ultimately, a successful ECLS-K:2023.

If you are selected for the ECLS field test and have any questions about participating, please visit the participant information page

For more information on the ECLS-K:2023 or its 2020 field test, please email the ECLS study team.

For information about other ECLS program studies, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/ecls/.

 

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll