COVID-19’s Impact on Schools and Stakeholders

School Pulse Panel (SPP): Taking the Pulse of Stakeholders

NCES collects data each month from a sample of public elementary, middle, high, and combined-grade schools. Surveys take less than 30 minutes to complete.

Eight in 10 school principals who took the new national survey say the COVID-19 pandemic stunted students’ socioemotional development and impeded their behavioral progress. Schools also reported increased classroom disruptions and higher student and teacher absenteeism.


Taking the pulse of stakeholders regularly can help you identify issues before they become more significant. This allows you to take proactive measures to address them. It also shows your stakeholders that you value their input and are taking steps to respond to it.

The School Pulse Panel (SPP) is a monthly data collection originally designed to collect voluntary responses from a nationally representative sample of public elementary, middle, high, and combined grade schools. NCES collects data from these schools and districts to produce national estimates, which are used by policymakers and education leaders.

The SPP’s most recent release highlights the continuing difficulty of filling certain positions, particularly in special education. Over 48% of respondents reported that it was Very Difficult or Somewhat Difficult to find staff for positions in special education, career or technical education, and foreign languages. This was especially true in the South and Northeast. Survey responses from 115 districts were included in the September 27th data release.


Pulse surveys are designed to capture students’ enthusiasm for their studies, their perception of the quality of their learning environment and their sense of whether their school cares about their success. To ensure survey validity, Satchel applies rigorous controls throughout the research process and conducts face-to-face interviews with selected participants. These confirm that the questions measure what they are intended to, and identify items that may need to be modified.

Nationally representative data is collected from a sample of community college, 4-year undergraduate and graduate students. Each statement is weighted based on its influence on a specific pillar, and each final pillar score is propagated through a series of calculations to ensure that the resulting score accurately reflects the opinions of students. In addition, to reduce sampling error, the pillar scores are reported after a sufficient number of respondents have completed the survey. This ensures that the results are comparable to those of other schools.


The School Pulse Panel (SPP) is one of the first sources of data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, teachers and school districts. It will collect information on schools’ reopening efforts, virus spread mitigation strategies and services available to staff and students. It will also assess whether the availability of these programs had a positive or negative impact on student and staff engagement.

The sample for this survey includes public elementary, middle, high and combined-grade schools that serve grades 4-12. Newly closed schools, correctional facilities/juvenile justice schools and home schools are excluded. Additionally, the sampling plan excludes any school with a student enrollment percentage that is significantly different from its state average (e.g., schools with very high or very low percent of students).

Survey results are available immediately as soon as participants submit their responses. They are displayed in easy-to-read, visually appealing reports on desktop and mobile devices. Results are automatically encrypted to protect the respondents’ privacy.


Providing students with the opportunity to share their perspectives through school pulse surveys is an important step in a healthy learning environment. But, as with any data collection tool, it’s critical to follow up on actionable insights.

People are more likely to participate if they know that their feedback will not be sent into a black hole. Let your students know that they can expect periodic surveys and that these will be used to help their school learn how best to support them. And be sure to let them know when you implement changes because of their feedback.

Pulse surveys are flexible and the questions can be tailored to your organizational needs. However, it’s recommended that survey questions include both outcomes and drivers, i.e., what people are saying and why they are saying it. This will provide a more holistic picture of what is happening and how to proceed with action.

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