How we gather and publish data

State agencies and school districts

If a state's health or education office releases data about cases in schools, we use that data first.  If districts are reporting independently of their state, we consider that official, authoritative data, as well. This data is considered our most authoritative resource for cases in K-12 schools across the country. 

News and media

News articles, press releases, and interviews with school officials with local media help keep our region managers up to date on cases in their focus areas. We make sure each article we use to verify information includes a statement from the school or school district, whether directly or through emails/letters sent to parents.

 

If the article relates to a school district and/or state that is already reporting, we check to make sure the numbers line up, and inquire with the school, state or district if they don't. 

If the article relates to a school or district not reporting in any official capacity, in a state that does not report cases, we build a file for that districts and remove any duplicate reports before adding the cases.

Public reporting

The public depends on us to keep them informed, and we depend on communities to help us do that. By submitting information about cases through our safe and 100% anonymous form, parents, teachers and even students keep us and each other up-to-date with the latest information available.

Verifying Public Reports

How we verify public reports depends on the type of report we receive. Reports with links to information are most likely to be added to our dataset, though we work to investigate those cases where additional information is needed.

If we receive a report that links us to an official district or state website, we add the data to our official counts without any other needed steps, and we keep the link to the resource for future use.

If a reports includes a link to a news article, press release or other official publications where a school official has confirmed the cases reported, we add that information to our counts.

 

If we receive a report with a letter or email from a school, or if no official data resource is available to verify the information submitted, we first reach out to the school itself to get confirmation. If the school does not outright deny the report, we look for additional resources to verify the information, either through additional reports we've received, social media posts, and school contacts that cannot speak on the record, but are trusted resources.

Even if we can't confirm a report with 100% certainty, we keep the report in our "pending" data until more information is received. 

Best Practices for Data Reporting

Information is one of our most important tools in this pandemic. Reporting cases and information related to COVID-19 timely is very important because we need good data to make informed decisions. Here is a list of things to consider when reporting data for your school.

Keep patient data confidential

  • Don’t publish names or any other kind of identifying information.

  • Even if names are redacted, enough information about an individual can be sufficient to identify them.

Take accessibility into consideration

  • Published information should be easily accessible to people even if they have special accessibility requirements, such as screen readers.

  • Simpler formats, such tables on web pages, work much better for all kinds of users.

Publish timely updates of the data

  • Data should be updated timely and regularly.

  • The latest data is useful, but historical data is very important as well.

  • Historical data can be used to assess effectiveness of policies, such as specific guidelines regarding mask usage and social distancing.

  • Historical data can be corrected if mistakes are made.

Use consistent formatting

  • Using a consistent formatting makes it easier for students and parents to understand what it says.

  • Consistent formatting enables others to make use of this data for a variety of purposes, from dashboards to research.

 

State data report cards

We grade states based on how much detail they provide at the state, district and school level. 

There are three primary levels of reporting data: state totals, totals by district, and totals by school, as shown in the chart below. 

 

We’re working to include additional granularity in reporting grades- like whether or not states are reporting totals by case type (students versus staff), school or grade level (elementary, middle and high), and additional details related to cases in schools (e.g. quarantines). 

 

This grade is specific to data about cases in K-12 schools, and not related to any other type or level of data reported by the state. 

 

What is considered “limited” reporting?

States often report limited data of each of the three main subject areas, meaning they will only specify the number of cases per district or school if a certain number of cases have been confirmed there. In South Carolina, districts with fewer than five cases are shown as “<5.” Other states only report cases related to “outbreaks,” a definition that also varies by state. If the data data is masked or restricted in any way, it’s considered “limited” reporting. 

© 2020 by The COVID Monitor

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