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Conducting a YRBS

Status Update: County-level reports are available below. Schools can access and review reports in WISEhome SAFE.

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 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.

2019-20 School Calendar Reporting and Postponement of the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)

The CDC recently determined that states are allowed to postpone their YRBS data collection from Spring 2021 to Fall 2021 given the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19. DPI has therefore decided to postpone the 2021 YRBS from Spring 2021 until Fall 2021. We believe that this allows DPI to reduce the burden on schools while increasing the chances of a successful YRBS. While DPI has never been more interested in data on student wellbeing, we have evaluated the situation and determined that high quality data collection is not feasible for the 2021 academic year. We believe that the chances of securing high quality data on students’ mental, physical, social and emotional health will be improved by postponing the survey until more schools are able to reliably participate.

At a Glance

studentsWhat 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.

Check this page frequently for updates or subscribe to our email list. If you have trouble with the link, send a message to: Put the word “subscribe” in the body of the text.

Changes in 2018-19

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.
      • Why standardize the time frame?

        • While some schools and communities appreciated the ability to administer their YRBS at any time, the lack of a standardized YRBS administration window caused several problems. Efforts to generate regional and even state data were often undermined because schools needed for those surveys had often taken the YRBS on their own only a few months before. This also led to survey fatigue and sometimes duplication of efforts.

        • Limiting the YRBS to a certain window will enable simultaneous data collection at all levels, improve the quality of the data collected, and reduce survey burden on schools.

  • 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):

high school survey example

  •  Here’s how it looks on the registration form for middle schools (grades 6-8)

middle school YRBS example

  • 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?
    • No.

  • 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.
Registering for a YRBS

The 2019 YRBS is now closed. Registration for the 2021 YRBS will open in Fall 2020.

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.

  • Registration
    • 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.
School and District-Level Results

School results from 2018-19

Final YRBS 2019 reports are NOW AVAILABLE for participating schools and districts

  • All schools with 20 or more responses receive school-level reports.
    • District-level reports are compiled when more than one school in the district completed the survey at the high school or middle school level.
  • County and CESA-level results (where available) will be compiled after school and district-level reports are complete. Those reports will be publicly available here.
  • State-level data is usually made available to the Department of Public Instruction from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November; DPI’s final state-level report will be available in early 2020.

How will schools access their reports?

  • School and district-level reports are available for authorized school or district users through Secure Home’s Secure Access File Exchange (SAFE) reporting module.
  • LOG IN HERE to access school and district reports

Who can access school and district YRBS reports?

The SAFE district security administrator may authorize any school or district staff member as a SAFE report viewer (see steps below). Aside from administrators, YRBS results are particularly relevant to school counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, and health teachers. Reports have been redacted to protect student privacy. No individual student information is included and statistics are not generated for very small groups of students.

Once reports have been accessed through SAFE, schools may also share their results with external stakeholders such as health departments, community coalitions, school boards, etc. Results are intended to help schools and communities better understand and support their student population. Please note that in many cases, county and/or CESA results are available and can be used for local discussions where there is discomfort with using school-level results. Even state and national results can paint a picture of the types of issues facing almost any school.

What do I need to access this system?

To access reports, authorized school personnel will need:

  1. A WAMS ID. If you don’t have a WAMS ID, follow the instructions on the Secure Home Information page. Most staff who do not have a WAMS ID will probably need “Application User (Level 3 Security)” access for the YRBS reports.
  2. Access to the Secure Access File Exchange (SAFE) system within ASM Secure Home.
    • If you have access to Secure Home but not to SAFE, look up your district on the ASM Security Administrator page.
      • Hit the “Administrator Availability” link on the right-hand side
        • Look for a role that says “Secure Access File Exchange (SAFE)”
        • If such a role exists, hit the blue “Request Access” button. Your district’s administrator will be notified that you are requesting access. 
        • If the role does not exist, your District Security Administrator will need to create the role for your district. See the Secure Home Information page for details.
        • If you are struggling to access your school or district results, please see the SAFE homepage and the Secure Home Information Page for more details. Otherwise, please submit a help desk ticket.
  3. Specific access to the YRBS role (if you don’t already have access to all reports). You can request this role within SAFE as part of your request process. SAFE users with higher levels of security access may automatically see YRBS reports.

Still need help? Questions can be directed to DPI’s customer services team help desk:

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 in use. Archived data (not reports, charts, or graphs) are stored by DPI. Schools were strongly encouraged to save their versions of reports from the old system before it went offline, but such reports are not part of DPI’s archived YRBS data. Requests for YRBS data from the retired online YRBS system are part of DPI’s data request process. See the DPI Data Request page for more information.
County and Regional Reports

The folders below contain the 2019 YRBS reports for counties and CESAs with sufficient local data.

CESA Reports (High School)

CESA Reports (Middle School)


What does it take to generate regional data?

YRBS 2019 county-level or CESA reports are produced if:

A) At least three public schools in the county or CESA were surveyed for a given grade band. That means three public high schools for a high school report or three public middle schools for a middle school report. (If a county or CESA only surveyed two schools, a report is only generated with the active, written permission of both schools.)


B) More than 50% of public schools in the area successfully surveyed at least 50% of their students at that grade level (e.g., high school students for high school reports; middle school students for middle school reports).


C) More than 50% of all public school students in the county or CESA were successfully surveyed (e.g., high school students for high school reports; middle school students for middle school reports).

Private schools were also able to participate, but their participation or non-participation was not used as a condition for generating reports. Wisconsin's statewide statistics are based on public schools only.

What if I don’t see a report for my county or CESA?

If the conditions outlined above are not met, no county-level or CESA report was produced.


Exception for two-school counties

Counties or with adequate participation rates, but only two participating schools in the county, can get countywide data if both schools provide explicit authorization for the aggregation of their data. To authorize such a report, authorized representatives from each school and/or district should email permission to The message should authorize the combination of that school’s data with data from the other school, and also acknowledge that they understand that their county report will consist of data from only those two schools. PDFs of letters on official letterhead are appreciated.

Results prior to 2019

The 2019 YRBS cycle was the first time that DPI was able to produce standardized, county-level reports. Prior to 2019, many counties did use the previous OYRBS system to make their own version of a YRBS survey and report. Results from those surveys are available to registered users only through the outgoing OYRBS system. See the section on “School-level Reports and Results” for more information.

Survey Resources for Schools

This section contains tips and documents that can help schools prepare for their YRBS survey.  Many of these documents are also attached to the email schools receive upon registration.

Can’t find a YRBS email? Check your spam folder. Although we strive to spam-proof all communications, in some districts the YRBS communications do get routed to spam.

Opt-Out Form (Passive Parental Permission Form)

Opt-In Form (Active Parental Permission Form)

  • Translated Forms

Thank you to Milwaukee Public Schools for providing translations of a passive parental permission form into several languages. Note that the English version upon which these translations are based differs slightly from the current version we are using. The English version of these translations appears at the end of this list.

Passive Parental Permission-Hmong

Passive Parental Permission-Karen

Passive Parental Permission-Rohingya

Passive Parental Permission-Somali

Passive Parental Permission-Spanish

English Basis for Passive Parental Permission Translations

Guidance for YRBS School Contacts or Coordinators: Here is a checklist that can help you prepare your school for the YRBS.  This is intended for “elective schools”, meaning those outside of the CDC/DPI State of Wisconsin sample.  Most high schools and all middle schools are considered “elective schools”. Unless your high school ha has been directly identified by DPI as a CDC/DPI Sample School, and/or you have been asked to provide class lists as part of your YRBS registration, your school is an elective school.  (High schools in the CDC/DPI State of Wisconsin sample: you receive a similar checklist by email and in the mailed packet that you receive approximately two weeks before your survey.)

Materials for Elective (non-CDC/DPI Sample Schools) High School Surveys: These are the materials that will be used by MOST high schools administering the YRBS.  If your high school has been directly identified by DPI as a CDC/DPI Sample School, and/or you have been asked to provide class lists as part of your YRBS registration, then you should NOT use these materials.  CDC/DPI Sample Schools will instead receive a mailed package with their materials, as well as copies of the instructions via email.

Materials for Middle School Surveys: All schools administering a YRBS to students in grades 6, 7, and 8 should use these materials.

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