EDSCLS Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on the topic area below to find answers to frequently asked questions about the EDSCLS. If you would like to search this page with key words related to your question, select "Expand All" and then select Ctrl-F if you are a PC user or Command-F if you are a Mac user.

General Questions (5)

Is the EDSCLS Free?

Yes, the EDSCLS is free of charge. However, users may incur costs if they purchase a physical or cloud-based server on which they install the platform or when administering the surveys.

Do we need permission to use the EDSCLS or reference it in a paper?

No, you do not need permission to use the EDSCLS or reference it. The EDSCLS is available to anyone who wants to use it. Users are not required to register or provide their information to use the EDSCLS.

Does the EDSCLS include a survey for staff, students, and parents?

Yes, the EDSCLS includes four surveys, one for each of four respondent groups: students in grades 5–12, their parents or guardians, and the instructional staff and noninstructional staff (including principals) in their schools.

Who should respond to the surveys?

The surveys were designed with all relevant stakeholders in mind. As a result, the surveys are intended for all school staff, all students in grades 5–12, and the parents/guardians of those students.

Does the EDSCLS have questionnaires for students in grades below grade 5?

No, but NCSSLE has developed a compendium of valid and reliable surveys, assessments, and scales of school climate that may help you identify and assess conditions for learning. Some of the surveys are intended for students in grades below grade 5. You can access the compendium here

Technical Platform Capabilities (4)

How many concurrent respondents can the EDSCLS platform support?

The EDSCLS works best for 500 or fewer concurrent respondents, but up to 500 additional concurrent respondents can be supported if dual servers are used. See User Guide 2.1 System Setup in Virtual Environment (for IT Staff) for more information.

Can I modify/remove questions I don’t want?

Modifying or removing survey questions could potentially affect the psychometric properties of the EDSCLS scales. Specifically, the questions that are offered in the EDSCLS are intended to produce psychometrically validated scales, and it is crucial for the statistical validity of those scales that all questions remain in the survey. Therefore, users should not alter the questions that are currently part of the EDSCLS.

Can I add additional questions?

Yes, the platform allows users to add questions, in the same multiple-choice format, to the end of the surveys. The platform will not provide any reporting on these additional questions. However, users can export the data files and perform additional analysis and reporting outside of the system. It is not possible to import data from additional questions into a data collection. See User Guide 2.2.6 New Survey Items for additional information.

Can survey results be linked to outside data systems?

The EDSCLS platform cannot be linked to any other data system. However, student data, after being exported from the platform, can potentially be linked to external data sources (such as those containing data on student achievement, graduation rates, and absenteeism) if the linking between student names and their usernames is retained during the username assignment stage outside of the EDSCLS platform.

Platform Installation and Set Up (8)

Will schools or state agencies need to dedicate an entire server to use the platform (or are the technical requirements less burdensome than that)?

A server dedicated only to the EDSCLS is not necessary to utilize the full functionality of the platform.

Who can host the EDSCLS platform?

The platform can be hosted at the state-, district-, or school-level. If the platform is set up at the state level, data can be reported at the state-, district-, or school-level. Platforms set up at the district-level report aggregated data for the district and for each individual school within the district. Platforms set up at the school-level will report data for each individual school separately.

How do I know if my site has the technical infrastructure needed for the EDSCLS data collection?

The EDSCLS require a high-speed internet connection with at least 2 Mbps upload and download speeds and a static IP and URL to which to bind the website hosting the survey. See User Guide 2.1 System Setup in Virtual Environment (for IT Staff) for more information. 

My site has a spare desktop/laptop computer that seems to meet the basic hardware requirements. Can I install the EDSCLS platform on it and run the data collection from there?

No, you will need to have a static IP and URL for the EDSCLS.

Can I install the EDSCLS platform in a VMWare environment?

The platform is distributed as a virtual disk in VMDK format, which is supported by both VirtualBox and VMWare. Instructions are provided for using VirtualBox, which is free software. It is possible to use VMWare as well, but if that is done you can no longer use VirtualBox and must rely on your own personnel to manually create the VMWare virtual machine from the provided virtual disk. Furthermore, you may run into conflicts since VirtualBox uses different guest services, which are already installed on the virtual disk. Some have experienced corrupted filesystems with VMWare, so additional expertise is recommended if you choose this route.

Note: It must be emphasized that you cannot expect to install VirtualBox with the EDSCLS virtual machine on another virtual machine provisioned from within the VMWare environment. That would constitute a virtual machine inside a virtual machine, which is not supported. To use VirtualBox, it must be installed on a physical server that does not have another hypervisor installed (such as VMWare or Hyper-V).

Can I install the EDSCLS platform on a cloud-based physical server?

If your site chooses to install EDSCLS on a cloud-based physical server, rather than on your own physical server, please follow these steps:
  • Choose and contact your cloud service provider in plenty of time before you plan to launch the survey(s).
  • Confirm with your cloud service provider that the EDSCLS platform and data will be in an appropriately secured environment, to ensure its confidentiality and security.

Note:  EDSCLS helpdesk does not offer technical assistance for platforms installed on cloud-based physical servers.

Can EDSCLS users change the MySQL database in the EDSCLS platform to some other database? (NEW)

No; the EDSCLS platform requires MySQL, specifically, to function properly. Changing the database can corrupt the platform.

How can I tell which version of the platform I have installed?

Starting with VM 3.2, the version number is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the administrator dashboard. Previous versions of the platform do not display the version number.

Survey Logistics and Administration (21)

Do we need to obtain any additional approval for administering the survey?

It is the responsibility of the education agency that is administering the EDSCLS to check whether additional approval is required for administration by the state or locality (e.g., from an Institutional Review Board).

What questions do the surveys ask?

The surveys cover a wide range of topics related to school climate, including questions concerning school engagement, school safety, and school environment. The surveys do not ask about the personal experiences of individuals, but rather, asks about perceptions of safety, student engagement, and environment at the school. You can view all the survey items here.

How long will it take to complete the surveys?

The length of time ranges per survey. The student, instructional, and noninstructional staff surveys take about 20 to 30 minutes to complete and the parent/guardian survey takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

Where is the link or URL to access the survey?

Each state, district, or school that is hosting the platform creates their own URL to access the survey. The URL is the same regardless of whether it’s a student, parent, or staff person taking the survey or a survey administrator accessing the administrator dashboard. This URL is created during the platform installation and set-up. Please ask the IT staff who installed the platform for the URL.

How do I change the level of the data collection (i.e., school, district, state) if I have already set it previously?

Unfortunately, it is not possible to change the level of the data collection once it has been set. As a possible workaround, consider creating a new data collection at the desired level and then import the data from the original data collection into the new data collection.

In what languages is the EDSCLS offered? (NEW)

Student and parent surveys can be completed either in English or Spanish. Staff surveys are available in English only. 

How do respondents acquire usernames to log in to an EDSCLS survey?

After the EDSCLS platform has been installed and the data collection set up, a Survey Administrator can generate however many usernames he or she decides will be needed. The usernames can then be exported and disseminated manually or paired up with e-mail addresses and disseminated via the platform’s e-mail system. See User Guide 2.2.7 Respondent Usernames Generation and 2.2.8 Respondent Usernames Dissemination for more information. 

Can we administer just one or some of the four surveys?

You can. However, the EDSCLS is designed to be a suite of surveys to establish a baseline of school climate across all relevant stakeholder groups. We recommend the administration of the surveys to all respondent groups to obtain the most comprehensive picture of the school’s climate.

When is the best time to administer the surveys?

While local needs and context may vary, it is recommended that the surveys be administered sometime during the spring so that respondents have close to an entire school year to reference. All surveys should be administered during the approximately same time period across schools and respondent groups.

How frequently can the surveys be administered?

There is no limitation to the frequency of survey administration in a given school year (i.e., the EDSCLS can be administered multiple times during the school year). However, to ensure consistency of data from year to year, the surveys should be administered during the same time frame each year.

Can I reopen a closed data collection?

Unfortunately, closed data collections cannot be reopened. However, you can employ a workaround by creating a new data collection and then importing the results of the second data collection into the first one (see User Guide 2.2.10 Exporting and Importing Respondent-Level Survey Results).

Can I reuse usernames?

Unused usernames or usernames that have not been distributed after a data collection has closed cannot be reused for future data collections. The system randomly generates usernames for each data collection, so it is not possible to assign usernames to a different data collection. If you generated usernames but did not send them out before a data collection closed, you will need to create a new data collection, generate new usernames, and send them out.

Can the Survey Administrator be the same person as the Survey Coordinator?

Yes, if there are only a couple of schools in the district or state collection or if the Survey Administrator can manage all the survey activities (e.g., collecting contact information for respondents, reserving computer labs for student surveys) at each participating school. Generally speaking, if a district is hosting a survey, it is recommended that there be one Survey Administrator at the district level and one Survey Coordinator/contact person in each school building. See User Guide 3.1 Preparing for the Survey Administration for additional information..

Are there any other recommended standards related to how the surveys are administered?

Recommended best practices can be found in the EDSCLS users’ guide (see User Guide 3. Administration Guide: Recommended Practices), but education agencies can develop their own procedures and standards or follow any procedures and standards that are used for any kind of testing or surveys.

How does the platform enable parents to complete the survey? For example, is it something they can complete from home?

If the server at your site allows access to the EDSCLS URL from outside of your network, parents (or any respondent) can take the survey from any computer or mobile device (including smartphones). 

Are there paper versions of the questionnaires available to look at?

The questionnaire items are available to be reviewed on paper, but the surveys will need to be answered online so that the EDSCLS platform can process and report the survey results. Questionnaires can be found here

What are the accommodations for students with disabilities or English language learners?

The EDSCLS platform is 508 compliant and is programmed so that the student and parent/guardian surveys can be completed in either English or Spanish. Schools should consider providing the same special accommodations to students as those provided in other assessments (e.g., translation services, extended time, and magnification devices). A makeup date should be set up for absent students as well as those who do not finish the survey during the originally scheduled time. Each school or district is free to schedule this session at their convenience, as long as it falls within the survey administration window. 

Note:  The EDSCLS survey is not specifically designed to accommodate students with severe cognitive disabilities who typically require alternative assessments. Consider whether these students should be ineligible.

Do we need to survey “all” students or can we use scientific sampling?

We recommend a universe data collection to provide the most complete picture of school climate. If you would like to draw a sample for data collection, please make sure the sample is a representative portion of the population and a sampling statistician is consulted.

What kind of information does the survey platform provide during live administrations?

The EDSCLS platform provides access to real-time submission rates at the school level. These submission rates are determined based on the number of respondents in each population who have submitted the survey and the education agencies’ reports of the number of expected respondents in each population (i.e., the number of respondent usernames generated) at the school level. The platform also allows administrators to identify those usernames that have not been used, those usernames for which a survey has been started but not completed (logged in), and those usernames for which a survey has been completed (submitted). See User Guide 3.5 During the Survey Administration Window for additional information.

What is considered an acceptable response rate?

If the response rate is below 80 percent, a nonresponse bias analysis is recommended to determine whether the respondents to your study are representative of the population in your school, district, or state, and to assess the potential magnitude of nonresponse bias. The EDSCLS website provides a template for calculating a nonresponse bias here.

What do I do if I am having trouble generating usernames?

There may be several reasons why usernames are not generating. You can take the following steps to resolve the issue. See also User Guide 2.2.7 Respondent Usernames Generation.
  1. Delete the data collection in question from the system (see 2.2.4 Data Collection).
  2. Restart your server and/or the EDSCLS virtual machine.
  3. Recreate the data collection and generate the usernames again.
  4. In older versions of the platform, problems generating usernames may be due to the length of a school name. When you add a new school and enter a school name that is more than 50 characters long, the platform is unable to generate usernames. Newer versions of the platform include a 60-character limit on school name.

Reporting (2)

What do I do if I am having trouble importing survey results?

There may be several reasons you are having issues importing survey results into the platform.
  1. If the data collection was set up at the school level, the import feature will not be available. It is only available at the district and state level.
  2. Depending on the size of the import file, it may take minutes to hours to process the data for the survey results reports. We recommend waiting 24 hours after importing files before determining that the import was not successful.
  3. If you created a data collection to import data and saved it on the platform, you must generate at least one username for the import to work.
  4. If the data being imported are not in CSV file format or are not in the exact same format as the survey results CSV file exported from the platform, you may have issues with importing.
    1. Respondent-level data are exported and imported in CSV file format. For many users, the default program for opening CSV files is Microsoft Excel. When you export respondent-level data, open it with Excel and save it, the format of the data in certain columns is altered (e.g., Start Date, End Date, and NCES ID). This alteration will prevent files from being imported correctly into the EDSCLS platform. To avoid errors in importing and exporting data, always open and save exported data files in a text editor like WordPad or NotePad to ensure data remains in the original format.
    2. If you tried importing data in a file format other than CSV, you will need to create a new data collection and generate at least one username, edit your results in a text file, import them in CSV file, and then wait for 24 hours for the system to process the information before the scale scores will be generated.
  5. Certain Virtual Private Networks (VPN) or Internet Service Providers (ISP) may block large files. The records may need to be uploaded in smaller batches.

What do I do if I am having trouble generating reports?

There may be two reasons you are having issues generating reports:

  1. If an item had fewer than 10 responses, frequency distributions will not be shown to protect the confidentiality of respondents and provide meaningful data; or
  2. If you just imported results, you may need to wait 24 hours for the system to process the information before reports will generate.

If neither of the above is true for your data collection, you can try

  • exporting the raw data;
  • creating a new data collection;
  • generating at least one username; and
  • importing your data into the new data collection to generate reports.

If that does not work, reach out to the EDSCLS Help Desk at edscls@air.org or (866) 730-6735 for assistance.

Understanding Results (6)

Are there national results available for the EDSCLS?

No, neither the pilot study nor the benchmarking study used nationally representative samples. Therefore, there are no EDSCLS results available that are nationally representative. In addition, since the U.S. Department of Education does not have access to the survey results from the schools, districts, and states across the country that are using the EDSCLS, that data are not available to compile national statistics.

Is there a cutoff score for positive or negative school engagement?

There are no cutoff scores, but the platform does produce benchmarked scale scores that will help you interpret the meaning of your scores.

What are the definitions of the benchmarked scale score performance levels?

The definition for each performance level is below.

  • Level 3 (Most Favorable): This benchmarked performance level indicates that respondents have the most favorable perception of this school climate domain or topic area. The score is more than400, within a possible range of 100-500, which means that the most likely answer to each positively valenced question in the scale is Strongly Agree. Likewise, the most likely answer to each negatively valenced question in the scale is Strongly Disagree.
  • Level 2 (Favorable): This benchmarked performance level indicates that respondents have a favorable perception of this school climate domain or topic area. The score is 300- 400, within a possible range of 100-500, which means that the most likely answer to each positively valenced question in the scale is Agree. Likewise, the most likely answer to each negatively valenced question in the scale is Disagree.
  • Level 1 (Least Favorable): This benchmarked performance level indicates that respondents have the least favorable perception of this school climate domain or topic area. The score is less than 300, within a possible range of 100-500, which means that the most likely answer to each positively valenced question in the scale is Disagree or Strongly Disagree. Likewise, the most likely answer to each negatively valenced question in the scale is Agree or Strongly Agree.

For more information about the benchmarked scale scores, including a webinar recording, please go here. The School Climate Improvement Data Interpretation Resources includes more advice for interpreting benchmarked scale scores (and other results). These resources are currently being updated to reflect the new benchmarked scale scores.) See also User Guide 6. Understanding the EDSCLS Scales.

Where did the benchmark scale scores come from?

The psychometric benchmarked scale scores are created using item parameters based on a Rasch model. The data used in the analysis are from about 100 schools across the nation collected by the EDSCLS, which includes completed student, instructional staff, and noninstructional staff data collections. Because the performance levels were not identified through averaging scores of a national sample, the performance levels should not be used as national benchmarks.  For detailed information about this method, please see User Guide Appendix G of the User Guide.

Can I get access to the program that was used to calculate the benchmarked scale scores?

Yes, the R code for calculating the benchmarked scale scores is saved in the Appendix F of the User Guide.

I have several years of EDSCLS scale score data that I use to create trend reports. How can I generate the old kind of scale scores?

Users have two options to keep their trend data going. They can either convert their old (“legacy”) scores into the new benchmarked scores or they can convert the new benchmarked scores into legacy scores. Please see detailed information about how to do this here. You can also contact the help desk at edscls @air.org or (866) 730-6735 for assistance.

Data Privacy and Platform Security (6)

Who will have access to the data collected and where is it stored?

The platform was designed to be downloaded and installed by a host on their respective state, district, or school server.  The EDSCLS data is automatically stored on that server.  Thus, only the host and those the host grants access can access the data.  The U.S. Department of Education does not have access to data collected using the EDSCLS.

Who will be responsible for the data collected?

Depending on which education agency is hosting the survey administration, either the state, local school district, or individual school will be responsible for the data collected.

Is the survey anonymous?

The system will generate random usernames. If you randomly disseminate the usernames to students, parents, and staff and do not keep track of which respondent receives which username, the survey will be anonymous. Note that in the parent and staff surveys, usernames are removed from the data file, so there is no possibility of tracing responses back to an individual respondent. If an education agency plans to link student responses to existing data systems, it will need to keep track of which usernames were assigned to which students outside the EDSCLS platform. In this case, the student survey would not be anonymous. See User Guide 3.3 Dissemination of Usernames.

How does the EDSCLS address parental consent?

The EDSCLS user’s guide includes sample parental consent forms (active or passive) in Appendix E of the User Guide. Please refer to relevant laws in your state and locality in deciding which form to use.

Does the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment’s (PPRA) active consent requirement apply to these surveys?

The PPRA requirement only applies to data collections conducted by the federal government. While the EDSCLS was developed by the U.S. Department of Education (ED), ED does not collect the data, nor does it have access to the data. Therefore, only state and local consent requirements apply.

How can I protect my EDSCLS VM from cyber-attacks?

To protect your EDSCLS VM from cyber-attacks, you can do one of three things:
  1. Power your current EDSCLS VM off after completing your entire data collection. See User Guide, Step 13 of Subsection C under 2.1.1 Installation and Configuration for instructions. The VM can be powered back on if needed. Before conducting the next data collection, you could then download the latest version of the EDSCLS VM and use that.
  2. Download and reinstall the latest version of the EDSCLS VM, including exporting data from the old VM and importing data into the new VM.
  3. Manually apply security patches and upgrades from the EDSCLS VM terminal command line. See User Guide 2.1.5 Security Patches and Upgrades Guide for details. Note: Security patches and upgrades should NOT be applied during data collection.