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Using the CSSS & CHKS to Help Close the Achievement Gap (CTAG)

In 2008/09, the California Department of Education (CDE) expanded both the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) and California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS) to provide better data to support the state’s priority initiative to close the statewide and national persistent racial/ethnic achievement gap. This initiative is aimed at supporting the work of policymakers, educators, and interested community members by providing a hub of helpful data, research, tools, and resources to close the achievement gap among California’s diverse student population.

CTAG-related questions were added directly to the main California School Staff Survey. For the California Healthy Kids Survey, they were compiled into a supplementary Closing the Achievement Gap (CTAG) Module, which districts can select to administer to their students. For those districts that did administer the CHKS CTAG Module between 2008-10, CDE funded the preparation of special reports disaggregating the results of both the CHKS and CSSS by the race/ethnicity of students and staff. District’s can request these reports as a custom service. A series of state-level reports, analyses, and factsheets are also available on the survey websites. A School Climate Workbook provides further guidance for using the survey results in closing this gap. In addition, CDE funded preparation of special reports examining CHKS and/or CSSS results by migrant education and special education involvement, in order to help educators understand how they relate to CTAG.

CTAG-Related Questions on the Surveys

Two types of questions were added to the California School Staff Survey (CSSS) and California Healthy Kids Survey (CHKS). Some questions ask directly about staff/student perceptions or experiences related to race, ethnicity, and culture, including migrant education status and, for staff, responsibilities for providing services to English Language Learners. A second set of more general questions assesses key educational issues that research has related to the gap — such as equal opportunities, rigor and relevance of instruction, relationships, and fostering of a sense of respect and fairness. Both staff and students are asked to identify their racial/ethnic background so that results can be disaggregated to determine if experiences and perceptions vary among subgroups.
Additional selection criteria for new questions included: applicability to all schools, regardless of race/ethnicity of students and staff; applicability to both students and staff so responses could be compared; and filling gaps in information not usually available from other sources.

The questions that were added to the CSSS and CHKS allow districts and schools to access their progress related to the following achievement gap areas:

  • Equity in student opportunities, rigorous classes, and respectful treatment;
  • Cultural sensitivity and relevance of instruction; and fostering staff self-assessment of their own cultural biases;
  • Professional development needs related to working with diverse populations, culturally-relevant pedagogy, serving English Language Learners, and closing the achievement gap;
  • Fostering appreciation of student diversity and mutual respect;
  • Priority given by schools to closing the achievement gap; and the
  • Degree to which racial/ethnic conflict poses a problem at the schools.

District CTAG Reports

All regular Main CHKS District Reports were expanded to include tables that provide the results for key questions by racial/ethnic groupings of students. Districts may also request preparation of custom supplementary reports of CHKS and CSSS results disaggregated by the race/ethnicity of students and staff. These reports will enable schools to determine whether students’ needs and perceptions of the school climate vary by race/ethnicity, and to compare student self-report data to the perceptions of staff by their race/ethnicity. A fee of $50 is charged for each report to cover the preparation labor.

State Reports, Analyses, and Factsheets

Statewide Analysis

Statewide CHKS/CSSS reports of all the survey results from all secondary schools that participated in the Cal-SCHLS surveys in the 2008-2010 school years, disaggregated by the race/ethnicity of students and staff, may be downloaded from the “Reports” sections of the survey websites. Special reports are also posted on these sites and examine: (1) how the survey results varied by the racial/ethnic composition of student enrollment; and (2) the extent to which observed racial/ethnic gaps in achievement and in school engagement, safety, and school developmental supports occurred within and/or between secondary schools.


The following CTAG-related factsheets may be downloaded from the “Using Results” sections of the CHKS and CSSS websites:

  • CSSS Factsheet #1 (pdf). How school climate perceptions vary by the race and ethnicity of staff.
  • CSSS Factsheet #2 (pdf). School climate perceptions of staff in schools with different racial/ethnic compositions.
  • CHKS Factsheet #8 (pdf). The achievement gap, school well-being, and learning supports.
  • CHKS Factsheet #9 (pdf). Racial/ethnic differences in school performance, engagement, safety, and supports.
  • CHKS Factsheet #13 (pdf). Racial/ethnic differences in student achievement, engagement, supports, and safety: Are they greater within schools or between schools in California?
  • CHKS Factsheet #14 (pdf). Racial and ethnic group differences in responses on the CHKS Closing the Achievement Gap Module (CTAG).

Migrant Education & Special Education Reports

As part of the overall CTAG initiative, the CDE Migrant Education Office funded the preparation of reports that summarize the results by migrant vs. non-migrant education status for all survey questions on both the CSSS and CHKS. The CDE Special Education Division funded reports that examine CSSS results disaggregated by whether staff provide services to special education students. These reports are available at the district and state level on the survey websites, along with descriptions of the data systems that were developed to support improvements in services provided to migrant and special education students.

Workbook for Improving School Climate & Closing the Achievement Gap

The Workbook for Improving School Climate, 2nd Edition (pdf) helps school communities interpret and use data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, the California School Staff Survey, and the California School Parent Survey. This workbook walks users through their school or district survey findings to create supportive school climates that enhance professional outcomes for staff, academic and social–emotional outcomes for students, and involvement outcomes for parents. It is designed to assist local school community members in their CTAG efforts by helping them better identify the needs of different racial/ethnic groups, and special education and migrant education students.

For more information contact:
Meagan O’Malley (Southern CA) | | 562.799.5421
Leslie Poynor (Northern CA) | | 510.302.4241

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