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School Pulse Panel: Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and staff in U.S. public schools

School Pulse Panel: Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and staff in U.S. public schools


The School Pulse Panel (SPP) is a new study sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), within the United States Department of Education, to collect extensive data on issues concerning the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and staff in U.S. public primary, middle, high, and combined-grade schools. The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the School Pulse Panel on behalf of the NCES.

Beginning January 2022, the monthly survey will ask sampled school principals about different topics each month such as:

  • instructional mode offered,
  • enrollment counts of subgroups of students using various instructional modes,
  • learning loss mitigation strategies,
  • safe and healthy school mitigation strategies,
  • special education services,
  • use of technology,
  • information on staffing, and
  • school meals program

Why is the survey important?

The School Pulse Panel will be one of the nation’s few sources of reliable data on a wealth of information focused on school reopening efforts, virus spread mitigation strategies, services offered for students and staff, and technology use, as reported by principals in U.S. public schools. The data collected in this survey will help to inform ongoing policy and funding discussions. 

Due to the importance of this collection, participating schools will receive $400 for each monthly survey completed.  Compensation will be paid monthly to responding schools in the form of a $400 debit card for each month a school has fully completed a survey.

Types of schools in the SPP

The sampling frame for the School Pulse Panel is derived from the Common Core of Data (CCD), the universe of public schools supplied annually by state educational agencies to NCES. Only public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia will be included in the School Pulse Panel sample. Newly closed schools, home schools, virtual schools, ungraded schools, and schools with high grades of kindergarten or lower are excluded. Regular public schools, charter schools, alternative schools, special education schools, vocational schools, and schools that have partial or total magnet programs are included. 

Beginning in August 2022, all schools from Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that meet the SPP sampling requirements for school type will be invited to participate in the Panel.

Why was my school selected to be in the survey?

From all the public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, we selected a random stratified sample of about 2,400 U.S. public schools. The sample is designed to provide national estimates of primary, middle/combined, and high schools, taking into consideration the type of locale (urbanicity), racial/ethnic student enrollment, and region. Your school happened to be one of those selected.

Your responses will represent schools with similar demographics that were not selected for the survey.

All public schools in the designated U.S. Outlying Areas that met the SPP sampling requirements for school type were invited to participate in the Panel beginning in August 2022.

How can schools respond to this survey?

Public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia will receive a mailed invitation and an email invitation to respond to the survey with a survey link and username and password specific to the school invited to participate in the survey. Public schools in the designated U.S. Outlying Areas will receive an email invitation only.  The School Pulse Panel can be completed online using the Qualtrics web-based survey platform. Given the variety of topics assessed, we encourage you to work together with other school and district staff members. There are two ways that you can share the survey with other staff members:

  • Survey Link: you can forward the survey link and log-in information you receive and allow staff members to respond online. Please note that when other staff members access the survey, they will be brought to the introduction page; when you send the link to others, be sure to include which specific questions you want them to answer. These questions are numbered and can be easily accessed using the table of contents, found at the top of each survey page. 
  • PDF: you can share the PDF version of the survey and allow staff members to record and compile their answers on the PDF. Any answers on the PDF would then be transcribed and submitted online at the survey link, using the log-in information you received. Answers provided on the PDF should not be mailed or emailed to the Census Bureau; all data must be submitted using the survey link and log-in information you received via mail or email.   

How can I verify that the person contacting me is from the Census Bureau?

If you have received a mailed letter or an emailed letter requesting you to participate in the survey, a Census Bureau employee may contact you to remind you to complete the survey by telephone. He or she will always provide you with their name and email address.

To protect your privacy, the School Pulse Panel NEVER asks for:

  • your Social Security number
  • your personal information via email
  • money or donations
  • credit card information

You can also verify the legitimacy of a call from the Census Bureau by visiting:


Is participation mandatory?

Although this is a voluntary survey, your cooperation is essential to make the results of this survey comprehensive, accurate, and timely. Policymakers and educational leaders rely on data from this survey to inform evidence-based decisions about policy and supporting recovery efforts. Since it is a sample survey, responses from sampled schools represent the responses of many schools that serve similar student populations. A greater number of completed surveys give us greater confidence that the findings are accurate.

Participating schools will receive $400 for each monthly survey completed. Compensation for completed surveys will be sent to responding schools in the form of $400 debit cards. Each responding school will receive a $400 debit card for each month that the survey is fully completed and submitted online.

Please note, the School Pulse Panel team was able to secure an extension on the expiration of issued MetaBank-branded debit cards. Funds on MetaBank-branded debit cards will now expire on February 15, 2023, regardless of the expiration date on the debit card.  If you still have funds on a MetaBank-branded debit card, please be sure to use these funds prior to February 15, 2023.

To access the funds from an ATM without a fee, use a MetaBank or Allpoint ATM. You can find a local in-network ATM at http://www.allpointnetwork.com/locator.aspx.

How do I know my responses are safe? Can I be identified by my responses?

The responses that are collected from surveys conducted by the Census Bureau are encrypted both in transit and at rest on the Census Bureau’s servers. These servers are part of a stand-alone network that is not accessible by the Internet. These servers are constantly monitored for any attempts at intrusion.

All of the information you provide may be used only for statistical purposes and may not be disclosed, or used, in identifiable form for any other purpose except as required by law (20 U.S.C. §9573 and 6 U.S.C. §151). Reports of the findings from the survey will not identify participating districts, schools, or staff. Individual responses will be combined with those from other participants to produce summary statistics and reports. Summary data from the study will be released on an online dashboard for researchers and policymakers. 

Where can I find the statistics produced by this survey?

Summary data from the study will be released via an online dashboard for researchers and policymakers. All data from the survey can be found here: https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/spp/.

What if I have additional questions, recommendations, or issues that I need resolved?

Please contact the U.S. Census Bureau at 1- 844-868-3661 if you have any questions about the survey. Someone will be available to take your call Monday through Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Time). At any other time, please leave a message and someone will return your call as soon as possible. The U.S. Census Bureau is also available to answer your questions via e-mail at addp.school.pulse.panel@census.gov.

If you have any comments concerning the accuracy of the time estimate, suggestions for improving this collection, or comments or concerns about the contents or the status of your individual submission of this questionnaire, please e-mail: addp.school.pulse.panel@census.gov.

What is the legal authority for conducting this survey?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education, is authorized to conduct this survey by the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002 (ESRA 2002, 20 U.S.C. §9543).

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved this survey. The OMB control number is 1850-0969 and the approval expiration date for the collection is 4/30/2025.


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