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Crisis Data Management: A Forum Guide to Collecting and Managing Data About Displaced Students
NCES 2010-804
February 2010


The Forum is pleased to present Crisis Data Management: A Forum Guide to Collecting and Managing Data about Displaced Students. One goal of the Forum is to improve the quality of education data gathered for use by policymakers and program decisionmakers. An approach to furthering this goal has been to pool the collective experiences of Forum members to produce "best practice" guides in areas of high interest to those who collect, maintain, and use data about elementary and secondary education. Effective crisis data management in state and local education agencies is one of these high interest areas.

Floods, fires, epidemics, ice storms, chemical spills, and other extreme events can have a substantial effect on communities, schools, and students. When a crisis shuts down a school building or otherwise disrupts the education system, educators must be prepared to respond in a manner that quickly restores a safe and stable learning environment. These emergencies can happen anywhere, and large-scale crises, such as hurricane Katrina in 2005, can affect schools and districts all over the country.

In the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the immediate demand for data about displaced students overwhelmed many school districts that had gained or lost students because of the disasters. The scale of these crises and their effects on school operations and management were in many ways unprecedented. This guide reflects "lessons learned" by the education community and provides recommendations for collecting and maintaining data about students who may move in or out of an educational organization during and following a crisis. The document is not presented as a comprehensive disaster recovery planning tool, and it does not address all aspects of crisis response. Rather, it focuses on data management activities intended to minimize the impact of a crisis and help educational organizations quickly preserve or restore services to students following a crisis.

While this guide's primary audience is Student Information Systems (SIS) data managers, many of the recommendations will also be useful to other staff members responsible for collecting, maintaining, and safeguarding data in education organizations. Members of the organization's disaster recovery team should become familiar with this document as well.

In this Guide

  • Chapter 1 defines the terms "crisis" and "displaced student," and raises key issues that were identified during past crises.
  • Chapter 2 recommends planning activities that should occur prior to a crisis, including the formation of a disaster recovery team, the assessment of existing data systems, the implementation of placeholders for data about displaced students, the maintenance of related data elements, a review of the frequency and timing of data collections, and consideration of associated data policies and procedures.
  • Chapter 3 provides guidance regarding the collection and dissemination of data about displaced students during a crisis, including the crisis declaration and subsequent data collection and exchange efforts.
  • Chapter 4 describes effective data reporting and evaluation following a crisis, including ongoing data sharing, state and federal reporting, auditing expectations, suspension or termination of temporary systems, and process evaluations.
  • Chapter 5 identifies several challenges specifically related to managing data about displaced students, including the implications of statewide student information systems, the need for unique statewide student identifiers, the timing of the crisis, and the implementation of displacement status records.
  • Chapter 6 presents the document's recommendations and suggested timeline in the form of a checklist of action items.
  • Appendix A lists other related materials available from the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
  • Appendix B provides a synopsis of relevant federal laws as they relate to privacy and homelessness and affect displaced students.
  • Appendix C is a glossary that defines terminology used in the document.
  • Appendix D lists other resources related to crisis data management.

The National Cooperative Education Statistics System

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System (Cooperative System). The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform educational information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. The Forum deals with issues in education data policy, sponsors innovations in data collection and reporting, and provides technical assistance to improve state and local data systems.

Development of Forum Products

Members of the Forum establish task forces to develop best-practice guides in data-related areas of interest to federal, state, and local education agencies. They are assisted in this work by NCES, but the content comes from the collective experience of the state- and school-district task force members who review the products iteratively throughout the development process. Documents prepared, reviewed, and approved by task force members undergo a formal public review. This consists of focus groups with representatives of the product's intended audience, review sessions at relevant regional or national conferences, or technical reviews by acknowledged experts in the field. In addition, all draft documents are posted on the Forum website prior to publication so that any interested individuals or organizations can provide feedback. After the task force oversees the integration of public review comments and reviews the document a final time, publications are subject to examination by members of the Forum standing committee sponsoring the project. Finally, the entire Forum (approximately 120 members) reviews and formally votes to approve the document. NCES provides final review and approval prior to publication.