Status Update: The new YRBS system will provide more useful, clean data, with reports and resources about how your information can be actionable.
With change comes learning! The information is coming; however, building the new reporting system is taking longer than anticipated, and we want to ensure accuracy for all participating schools, which takes time. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Wisconsin YRBS general e-mail list. Having trouble with the link? Subscribe by sending an email to email@example.com with the word “Subscribe” in the heading.
Thank you to everyone who helped make the 2019 YRBS data collection cycle a success! We had unprecedented participation in this year’s survey! To learn more about forthcoming results, see the Reports and Results section below.
At a Glance
What is the YRBS?
- The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is conducted on multiple levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds and oversees YRBS data collection at the national level. CDC also funds states to conduct a YRBS and provides oversight and support to allow states to produce official, state-level statistics based on a sample of students.
Since 1993, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has worked with CDC to conduct a state-level YRBS every two years. That state-level, or “State of Wisconsin YRBS”, is based on a representative sample of public high school students and is the source of official state-level statistics. Results of that survey represent the state as a whole and cannot be broken down to the county or local level.
In addition, since 2007 the DPI has also allowed high schools and middle schools access to an online YRBS system to conduct their own surveys for local use. Many schools and communities around the state have used that system to generate local data, but DPI did not provide much guidance on local data collection or publish or utilize results from local surveys. This meant that there was an enormous amount of local data across the state, but it didn’t reliably or officially add up to any standardized regional statistics. Beginning in 2018-19, DPI is making changes to close this gap and facilitate the production of regional YRBS data across the state. Assuming adequate participation levels, this will allow a Wisconsin high school that conducts the YRBS to look at their school’s data in comparison to their region (e.g., county and/or CESA), to the state, and to the nation.
How is the survey done?
Students take the survey online during the school day. The survey is anonymous and administered in a test-like environment to ensure privacy.
Which schools can participate?
Any school with grades 6-12 can participate in local surveys. Private schools are eligible to participate at the local level, but they are not included in the scientific sample used to generate state-level statistics. State-level statistics (from the State of Wisconsin YRBS) are based on a sample of public high school students only. This means that state-level data is only available at the high school level and does not account for private school students.
How often is the survey done?
The YRBS is conducted every two years. This has always been the case for the national and state-level (“State of Wisconsin”) YRBS. It has not always been the case for local YRBS surveys, which could be conducted whenever schools wanted. Starting in 2018-19 all state and local surveys in Wisconsin will be conducted at the same time . The move to every other year reduces survey burden on some schools and brings all local surveys in line with the national and state YRBS.
The primary survey window for the 2018-19 school year is January 7 to March 29, 2019. Schools that have conducted a local YRBS in the fall previously and need one final round of fall data collection have the option of conducting such surveys between October 15 and November 30, 2018.
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After consulting with school, community, and state-level stakeholders, DPI has begun implementing several changes intended to streamline the system and improve the quality of local YRBS data.
- A new software system! The previous YRBS system served Wisconsin schools well for many years. However, that system is now dated, and the State needed to find a new software solution going forward. Starting in August 2018, all new surveys will be conducted using Qualtrics for YRBS data collection. This is the same survey software used by the University of Wisconsin system, as well as by many businesses and education systems around the nation. Surveys can no longer be created using the previous Online YRBS system (see the section on results and reports below).
- Standardized timeframe: Moving forward, YRBS surveys will all be conducted in spring semesters of odd-numbered years.
- For the 2018-2019 school year, schools can administer their surveys between January 7 and March 29, 2019. In fall 2018 only, schools can conduct one final fall administration during October and November 2018.
- Standardized questionnaires: Rather than allowing schools to create a questionnaire from our online question bank, the new system features standard high school and middle school questionnaires, with some limited ability to customize through optional modules. This will reduce the need for local and regional coordination and allow for more consistent local, state, and national comparisons.
- Better integration with Wisconsin’s statewide survey: In the past, the official CDC/DPI State of Wisconsin YRBS was separate from the online YRBS that schools used to generate local data. Schools sampled into the State of Wisconsin YRBS had to do both surveys if they wanted to comply with the state’s data collection needs and get their own results. The new system is fully integrated to eliminate duplication of efforts.
- More support for the creation of regional data (county and Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA)): The changes to the YRBS system will facilitate the production of consistent regional statistics across the state. See the section on counties, CESAs, and other stakeholders for more information.
Surveys and Optional Modules
YRBS surveys are designed for students in grades 6-12. All YRBS- administering schools must use either the standard high school survey (for grades 9-12) or standard middle school survey (for grades 6-8).
- In addition, during the registration process schools may opt to add ONE (and only one) of four optional modules: 1) Drug-Free Communities Core Measures; 2) Youth Tobacco Survey; 3) Adversity and Protective Factors; and 4) Safe and Supportive Schools. Each module has 10-13 questions.
- Here’s how this looks on the registration form for high schools (grades 9-12):
- Here’s how it looks on the registration form for middle schools (grades 6-8)
- What if my school has both middle school and high school grade levels?
- Survey versions are determined by the grade level rather than the type of school. Students in grades 6-8 should take the middle school version, while students in grades 9-12 should take the high school version. Such schools can use one registration form to register for both versions of the standard survey.
- Can schools choose more than one module?
- Schools can only choose ONE of the four optional modules named above. While there are always more questions we might like to ask it's vital to keep the surveys to a length that most students can, and will, complete during a normal class period. IF your school finds it hard to choose between the modules, it's important to remember that the standard high school and middle school surveys already include questions on drugs, tobacco, adversity and protective factors, and school climate. The optional modules simply allow for additional depth into one of the topic areas already covered on the standard survey.
In addition to the four optional modules described above, schools surveying at the middle school level may add the four-question High-Risk Populations mini-module. This includes demographic questions that can help identify disparities between student groups. Those demographic questions appear on the standard high school survey but from the standard middle school survey. There are no additional topic areas covered in this mini-module. Middle school surveys can, therefore, vary in length between 49 questions (standard survey only) and 66 questions (if a school selects the Drug-Free Communities module and the High-Risk Populations.
- Can a school just use the optional modules without a standard survey?
- What if we’re a Drug-Free Communities (DFC) grantee?
- DFC grantees will need to select the DFC module (Module 1) in order to have all of the core measures required for the DFC grant.
- Why create standard surveys?
- In the past, Wisconsin schools could pick and choose questions from a sprawling online YRBS question bank. While this had the advantage of customization, it caused confusion and made it difficult to generate statistics that were useful above the school level. Even with the customization option, most schools gravitated towards topics covered in the State of Wisconsin YRBS. However, over time the old question bank contained many different versions of the same basic question, making it difficult for schools to make comparisons between their data and that of other places, or to produce municipal, county, or CESA (regional) statistics unless there was a deliberate effort at coordination. The different question versions also were problematic for schools if they switched between question versions from one year to the next. Because schools were not required to include any substantive questions or topics on their local YRBS surveys, in theory, two neighboring districts could each administer their own “YRBS” without having any questions in common with one another or with the State of Wisconsin YRBS.
- How were the questions for the standard surveys selected?
- High School Survey: The standard high school survey that is available to all high schools is now the same as the CDC/DPI State of Wisconsin YRBS which is used to generate official state-level statistics. This will allow for direct comparisons between state and local data, as well as significant overlap with national YRBS results. Wisconsin’s high school survey combines CDC requirements with recent and long-standing Wisconsin questions.
Middle School Survey: Wisconsin has never conducted a formal, statewide middle school survey. In the old online YRBS system, the default questions were set to mirror that year’s high school survey. While most schools did use those standard surveys, there was a lot of variation among middle school surveys.
Questions on the 2019 standard middle school survey were determined based on:
Including the middle school equivalent of most high school questions.
Incorporating questions or topics that have been most frequently used in local Wisconsin middle school surveys in recent years.
Incorporating stakeholder feedback about key topics.
What are the main differences between the middle school and high school surveys?
Length: the middle school survey is much shorter than the high school survey.
Emphasis: The middle school survey has more of an emphasis on protective factors and fewer questions about sexual behavior or other sensitive topics. This reflects the emphasis of most middle school YRBS in recent years, and so attempts to match the survey to community norms as well as students’ development.
- What if there are topics on the surveys that my school doesn’t need or want?
- The YRBS is designed to cover many different areas broadly related to health and wellness. The results are used by stakeholders across a wide array of health-related areas. While some schools may only directly care about one or two topic areas, in general, the YRBS is a powerful tool precisely because it does provide data across several different topics. Every topic covered is valued by a national, state, or local set of stakeholders.
- The YRBS covers sensitive topics. Schools cannot exclude questions, but students can skip any questions that make them feel uncomfortable. Students can also opt out of the survey altogether if they or their parents wish.
- What if my school wants to administer the survey every year, or in non-survey years?
- Surveys will not be available outside of the new survey window. After April 5, 2019, the next YRBS will begin in January 2021.
The 2019 YRBS is now closed.
What’s Different for CDC/DPI Sampled Schools?
CDC/DPI sampled schools are the approximately 50 high schools selected at the beginning of a YRBS cycle to represent the state as a whole for Wisconsin’s official, statewide YRBS statistics. Such schools are notified by DPI of their selection at the beginning of the year. Most schools taking the YRBS are not part of this group.
- DPI directly contacts sampled schools with a registration link that is specific to their school.
- If a “Request for Registration” form is submitted for a sample school, and the sample school has not already registered, DPI is notified and communicates with the school and the requester.
- Classroom sampling
- Sampled schools choose to administer their survey either during a required period or during a required course, and provide the relevant course list to DPI. DPI then works with CDC to sample classrooms from among that list for inclusion in official state statistics. Schools can choose whether they want to just survey those sampled classrooms or to survey the whole school. Surveying the sampled classrooms only meets CDC/DPI requirements but does not produce enough data on the school as a whole to produce a school-specific report. For that reason, many sampled schools opt to survey school-wide. Sampled schools also have a few different procedures on their survey administration date based on CDC requirements.
- Will sampled school data be part of county and regional reports?
- Sampled schools have the option of either surveying their whole school or only surveying a few sampled classrooms selected by DPI. Sampled schools that opt to survey the whole school will get reports from their data, and the school’s data will also contribute to the county and CESA reports. Sampled schools that only survey sampled classrooms will not get their schools’ results, and the data will not be used towards county or CESA reports. While the sampled classrooms are vital for the State of Wisconsin statistics, they are not sufficient to represent that school.
- Will sampled schools get their results?
- As described above, sampled schools that survey the whole school will get their results.
- How are schools sampled?
- Every two years, DPI submits a sampling frame to CDC of public schools that include 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grades. CDC then uses a method called “probability proportional to size” to select schools from that list based on the number of students they have. Within those schools, required classrooms or class periods are sampled for inclusion in the state dataset. This allows each eligible public high school student in Wisconsin an equal chance of selection.
- How can the process be random if my school has been selected before?
- The sampling process equalizes the chance that individual students will be selected, not schools. Large schools have more students, and therefore a higher probability of selection. Small schools are always part of the sample, but it’s much less likely that any given small school will be in the sample several times.
- Now online
- Prior to the 2018-19 school year, CDC mandated that all sampled schools participate via paper. In Wisconsin, this meant that sampled schools only surveyed their CDC/DPI sampled classrooms and did not get school-level results. If they wanted school-level results, they had to use DPI’s OYRBS system to do so. The new system allows sampled schools to use the same online system and get the same results as other schools.
Reports and Results (Including link to previous OYRBS system from 2007-2018)
How and when do I see data from local surveys conducted prior to the 2018-19 school year?
- The previous online YRBS system is no longer used to collect survey data, but it can still be used to access existing data. If your school used the system in the past, make sure to retrieve old reports now. The system will be unavailable after the 2018-19 school year.
- The old OYRBS system can be accessed here.
- Once the previous system is closed, the data will be archived at DPI. However, the reports from the system (e.g., PowerPoints, comparison reports, etc.) will not be available to DPI or to schools. Schools that did not retrieve their reports will be able to request their data, but the data will not be in the form of tables, charts or PowerPoints and the process may take longer to complete.
- If your school has reports in the old system but the person who accessed the reports is no longer available, contact John Bowser at email@example.com.
- If you are a current system user but you encounter any issues while retrieving old reports, contact Antwon Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org.
School results from 2018-19
- When will reports become available?
- Reports will be made available as soon as possible, but will probably not be available before May. Reports will be released to all eligible schools at the same time, regardless of when the school took the survey. Reports will be released in waves: first schools will receive school-level reports, then district-level reports will be released, then county and CESA-level reports. It is anticipated that county and CESA-level reports will be available this summer. We know many schools hope to use the information this school year to help plan for next year, and are aiming to make that possible.
- Do schools need to do anything else to get their reports?
- Schools do not generally need to do anything else to receive their results and should wait to be notified that results are available. In most cases, DPI has all the information needed to prepare reports for public school and district reports.
- Private schools may need to provide DPI with information on their enrollments so that the reports can account for response rates. Such schools will be contacted separately with a form requesting that information.
- Because some schools serve students from more than one county, we may also reach out to schools for additional information before preparing county-level reports. Where a district draws heavily from students from two or more counties, we will try to account for cross-county enrollments in producing county-level reports.
- How will schools access their reports?
- Reports for public schools will be made available through WISEdash for Districts’ SAFE reporting module. Instructions for accessing the reports will be provided. If you work for a public school or district but do not currently have access to SAFE, you may want to start talking with your administration about who currently has such access and can either pull the report for you or authorize you to access it directly.
- Since private schools do not have access to WISEdash, DPI will work with such schools individually to provide their reports another way. This may mean that private schools receive their results a little later than public schools.
- Will I be notified when results become available?
- Yes. Anyone who registered a school for a YRBS will be notified by email when reports are available.
- What if I want the results now to apply for a DPI grant?
- We know that many schools are applying for AODA and mental health grants this spring. While we were hoping to be able to provide 2019 results in time for this wave of grant-writing, the enormity of this YRBS cycle’s efforts and the realities of implementing a new system have not made that possible.
- The Mental Health Grant Coordinator (Beth Herman) and the AODA Grant Coordinator (Brian Dean) have both been apprised of the YRBS timeline and have provided guidance for grant applicants and grant reviewers on this situation. No applicants will be penalized for not having 2019 results in time for the grant deadline. Because reports will be released to schools all at once, all schools will have a level playing field when it comes to 2019 YRBS results. Grant applicants are encouraged to use either their most recent, prior YRBS data, or other data sources, in writing their current applications. For more information on accessing prior YRBS data, see the information at the top of the “Reports and Results” section of this page.
- What will the reports be like?
- Reports will be a single, long document divided into YRBS topics. Schools can pull out sections on particular topic areas to present to stakeholders. The topics will cover all substantive areas and also demographic breakdowns to provide more of a sense of which student groups are at greatest risk and why. Reports will include graphs, tables, and a small amount of narrative. To protect student privacy, results will not be available for questions in which 5 or fewer students reported the risk behavior.
- Reports will also include some information on the strength of the school and/or district’s survey participation. This information is only intended to help schools and others make the best use of their YRBS information, not to grade or rank schools. For instance, schools with a very high level of YRBS participation can generally have more confidence in their YRBS results than schools with lower levels of participation. Because the YRBS covers important topics and is often used for school and community decision-making, it’s important to understand how robust local results are and what improvements, if any, could be made in the future.
- In addition, under the new system DPI now has the ability to replicate CDC’s data cleaning and preparation procedures for schools’ local YRBS report. This is a significant innovation which helps to ensure that the results are as accurate and representative as possible. It will also strengthen comparisons to state and national data.
- Regional statistics
- Wisconsin’s official statewide statistics are produced under the auspices of the CDC using a statewide sample only (there are no regional estimates). However, in the past, many communities around the state used some version of their local YRBS survey to produce county or other regional data. Prior to 2018-19, these efforts depended on the decisions and initiatives of local stakeholders, with no ability to compare across regions. With the move to standard surveys and a single survey administration window, local YRBS results across the state can now be used to populate county, CESA, and other regional statistics and reports without extensive local organizing efforts. This change was enacted after extensive consultation with YRBS stakeholders from the local and state levels.
- What does it take to generate regional data?
- In order to generate reports at either the CESA or county level, all of the following are required:
- At least three (3) schools in that area must participate in that survey. This means the high schools OR three middle schools, not a combination. The data from three schools taking the same survey version will be combined for county or CESA reports.
- More than half of the public schools at a given level (middle school or high school) take the survey, and
- Each participating school has a minimum of 50% of students take the survey.
- In order to build on existing efforts and momentum, data collection is based on a census of students rather than a sample. The requirements above establish the minimum in order to generate local statistics. However, communities are strongly encouraged to exceed this because of the higher the level of school and student participation, the more accurate the regional results.
- What if our area can’t fulfill those minimum requirements?
- Counties with only two eligible schools can get countywide data if, and only if, both schools provide explicit authorization for the aggregation of their data. More information on the authorization process will be posted here.
- Similarly, if there is only one eligible school in a county, no county report will be released without the school’s explicit authorization.
- Another alternative is for neighboring counties with only a few schools to request a combined report. The combined report would follow the same parameters as the standard county reports (e.g., at least three schools, etc.) School authorization is not required for such combined reports.
- When will county reports be released?
- DPI anticipates releasing county reports during summer 2019. Updates will be posted here.
Counties, CESAs, and other Stakeholders
This section provides information for any non-school stakeholders interested in promoting the YRBS and using local data.
Thank you to all of the CESA, county, municipal, and other YRBS champions throughout the state who promoted local data collection during the 2019 YRBS cycle! We achieved an unprecedented level of participation which will facilitate more local statistics than ever before! Data collection ended in April 2019 and data cleaning and preparation are in process.
Please see the section on “Reports and Results” for information on local YRBS reports.
Survey Resources for Schools
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