As part of our youth smoking prevention/cessation research conducted over the past 22 years, we have successfully administered school-based data collections in 90 Washington state schools among thousands of students (grades 5-12)—regularly achieving participation rates in excess of 90%. Our presentation will propose key strategies for overcoming school-based data collection challenges as well as covering specific procedures for school recruitment, parent and student consent procedures, working with schools, hiring/training/monitoring data collectors, and data collection methods for student absentees. The post-presentation discussion will focus on brainstorming solutions to additional challenges raised by the audience.

Main solutions offered by presentation

  1. Need dedicated and well trained staff
  2. Must first recruit participation from senior school personnel, possibly at district level
  3. Must make procedures as easy and smooth on school staff as possible
  4. need flexibility to adapt to changing school schedules
  5. need flexibility in ways to gather parental permissions
  6. need flexibility in ways to collect data from absent students

Audience Issue: FERPA knowledge

Discussion: FERPA is the federal law that allows some school data to be collected without parental permission.  Not all school personnel are equally knowledgeable about the regulation. You must have buy-in from the school personnel and may need to educate them about FERPA. Even when you are asking for parental consent for student survey participation, you may need to start with a list of students and getting that list is requested under FERPA.

Audience Issue: Active versus passive parental consent

Discussion: While passive parental consent may be easier to obtain, some IRBs may not allow it. Eliminating any sensitive questions, or collecting sensitive data anonymously, may increase the chances of receiving permission to use passive consent. Both methods require ways to get information to parents and follow-up with non-responders. Some researchers have had success sending papers home with students, others have not. May need to use mail, phone, school meetings, etc. to eventually reach all parents.

Audience Issue: How do you protect knowledge about which student does or does not participate, whether due to parental non-consent or student choice, when collecting survey data in the classroom?

Discussion: Should keep participation status confidential from other students and from the teacher. May need to have many color coded survey booklets and use one color for an activity book instead of a real survey.

PDF of the presentation at the RC Workshop.