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

Chapter 6. Recommended Crisis Data Management Checklist

In this guide, a crisis is defined as "any natural or manmade event that causes the displacement of students." A displaced student is defined as "a student who was enrolled or eligible for enrollment but, because of a crisis, has enrolled in another place."

The immediate demand for data about students displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita was overwhelming for many school districts that gained or lost students because of the disasters. This guide provides recommendations for developing and maintaining data about students moving in or out of your agency because of a crisis. These recommendations are not a comprehensive disaster recovery planning tool. Rather, they are limited to data system planning activities intended to minimize the impact of a crisis and preserve or restore educational services to students following a crisis.

The items below summarize critical data issues for an agency before, during, and after a crisis. Additional details about these planning and response activities are available in chapters 2 through 5.

Before A Crisis: Planning For Displaced Student Data

  • Evaluate Your Disaster Recovery Team
    • Ensure data management specialists are represented on your agency's disaster recovery team and, when appropriate, that a "data subgroup" is established.
  • Assess Existing Student Data Systems
    • Automate all data systems and maintain all data in an appropriate electronic format.
    • Verify that your student data systems are flexible enough to permit the creation of new applications and file formats as needed in a crisis situation.
  • Implement Placeholders For Displaced Student Data Elements
    • Implement a displaced student indicator and associated crisis event table before they are needed in a crisis.
    • In addition to a code that identifies a crisis, consider including other information to fully explain the event, including crisis name, crisis type, crisis start date, and a crisis descriptor.
    • SEAs: Prepare to collect displaced student information from LEAs to meet state and federal reporting requirements related to a declared crisis.
    • SEAs and LEAs: Coordinate, communicate and confirm data items and file formats before setting up any new elements or systems.
  • Maintain Data Elements
    • Review and maintain all basic student data items in your SIS. In addition to basic student information, users must be able to access related data in other systems including, for example, records from facilities, security, transportation, programs and services, and staff data systems. Several national data standards are available to inform these activities as necessary.
    • Because federal agencies emphasize county-level action, be aware of your FIPS resources, including the national databases. The National Center for Education Statistics has an online tool that allows users to obtain FIPS County Codes for all public schools and districts in the United States.
  • Review The Frequency And Timing Of Data Collections
    • Know the frequency and timing of your agency's current data collections.
    • Be prepared to introduce additional data collections or collection cycles as necessary.
  • Review Data Policies And Procedures
    • Review and understand current federal, state, and local data policies and procedures.

During A Crisis: Collecting And Disseminating Data About Displaced Students

  • Evaluate The Crisis Declaration
    • The disaster recovery team should determine the organization's response based on the nature and scale of the crisis and clearly communicate data action plans to staff at all levels of the education enterprise.
  • Assess data systems
    • Inventory data systems and determine whether any data have been lost or otherwise made inaccessible.
    • Use a formal chain of communication between agencies to initiate collection of displaced student identifiers.
    • Protect and respect the confidentiality of education data.
    • Be prepared to query and analyze aggregate data in a variety of ways to support decisionmaking during a crisis.
    • SEAs: Consider utilizing a temporary database to help share displaced student data during a crisis.

After a Crisis: Displaced Student Data Reporting And Evaluation

  • Review Ongoing Data Sharing
    • Recognize that tracking displaced students following a crisis is an ongoing process given the high likelihood of multiple enrollments and withdrawals by displaced students.
  • Plan State And Federal Reporting
    • Consider the possibility of the SEA stepping in as the fiscal agent for LEAs when requesting Impact Aid and other federal support.
    • Footnote reports and other published data when marked changes may be a function of student displacement rather than normal measures of progress and participation.
  • Discontinue Temporary Systems
    • Formulate a plan to archive or destroy temporary data systems based on usage agreements, confidentiality expectations, and other data lifecycle considerations.
  • Evaluation
    • Evaluate the effectiveness of your agency's disaster recovery plan to improve future planning efforts and emergency responses.
  • Other Challenges
    • Proactively address issues that frequently challenge organizations, including
      • Statewide Student Information Systems (SIS)
      • Unique, statewide student identifiers
      • Timing of crises
      • Displacement status