General FAQs

  1. Why is the IYS administered in schools?
  2. What is the cost to the school for participating in the IYS survey?
  3. How can IYS data help schools?
  4. How much time should be allowed to administer the IYS?
  5. How can we feel confident that IYS survey results are valid?
  6. What is the difference between parental consent and parental notification?
  7. Are schools required to use the parental consent process?
  8. What if our school district requires parental consent?
  9. How were the survey questions chosen?
  10. What do the IYS questions cover?
  11. Is the IYS customized by grade level?
  12. Can the IYS be customized to local school and community issues and efforts?
  13. How are IYS results generated?
  14. Are individual school results shared with community agencies?
  15. Does participating in IYS lead students to experiment with new negative behaviors?
  16. Will parents be concerned about the survey?
  17. How can we address parents' concerns about the questions that are asked on the survey?
  18. What if the IYS shows negative results for the school?
  19. What is the timeframe for results?
  20. If I don't understand the results, will someone help me?
  21. Can we compare our data with others (county, state, other schools in similar areas)?
  22. How does IYS data relate to our priority focus on academic achievement?
  23. Why must it be administered in the spring?
  24. Why are 9th and 11th graders not surveyed?
  25. How much does it cost to survey the rest of the students at my school?
  26. Which other schools have participated in the survey?
  27. How do I get my district on board to participate?
  28. What is the goal of the IYS?
  29. How is IYS data used?
  30. Why are specific words written in all caps (e.g., CAR) in questions U21-U26 on the high school survey?

1. Why is the IYS administered in schools?

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and the Illinois Department of Human Resources (IDHS) recognize youth substance abuse as a problem shared by schools and communities alike. The survey results are used by both ISBE and IDHS in program planning and evaluation, and individual schools and districts benefit from having access to the results for their student population.  Administering the survey within the schools, rather than conducting it by telephone, allows for anonymity and therefore, provides more valid results.

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2. What is the cost to the school for participating in the IYS survey?

There is no cost to participating public or private schools.  The survey is funded (supported) by drug abuse prevention grants (funds).

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3. How can IYS data help schools?

The IYS allows for comprehensive planning of prevention initiatives by indicating the prevalence of alcohol and tobacco use, the rise of prescription drug abuse, and the distribution of use across all geographic areas of the state. This information is valuable to the state, communities, and schools in targeting prevention initiatives. In addition, the IYS collects information about school climate, safety, and important contributing factors to youth risk behaviors that can impede learning.

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4. How much time should be allowed to administer the IYS?

Generally, one class period of 30 to 45 minutes should be allowed to administer the IYS.

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5. How can we feel confident that IYS survey results are valid?

Research indicates that well-monitored self-report surveys produce valid responses. Results from this survey and other comparable surveys show similar patterns and levels of drug use (with variation based on locale and year of survey), which also  indicates validity in responses.


In addition, safeguards are built into the survey analysis to identify over-reporting of drug use. Under-reporting of drug use is minimized by assuring that survey participants are not associated with their responses and by conducting the survey according to the instructions.


Requiring written parental consent (see below) may result in an unrepresentative sample. Therefore, it is recommended that schools implementing parental consent maintain a participation rate of 80% or more (after absence rates are factored) in order to ensure valid survey results.

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6. What is the difference between parental consent and parental notification?

Both parental consent and parental notification alert parents to the nature of the survey to be administered, and both permission methods provide an option to exempt the student from participation. Parental notification requires parents to send in a permission slip only if they want to have their child excluded from the survey process. Parental consent requires that parents send in a permission slip indicating whether or not they want their child included in the survey process.

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7. Are schools required to use the parental consent process?

No. The survey is funded by substance abuse prevention funds and not Department of Education funds, so the parental consent process is not required.

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8. What if our school district requires parental consent?

If parental consent is sought, the following steps should be taken to increase participation:

  • Design a parental consent form that requires parents to sign and indicate either their consent or refusal of their child’s participation in the IYS survey.
  • Include the parental notification letter and the parental consent form with registration materials at the beginning of the school year.
  • Appoint school staff to follow-up with parents who have not returned the parental consent form.
  • Provide an alternative activity (i.e., silent reading) for youth who do not have signed permission to participate.
  • Maintain the file of parental consent forms for one year.

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9. How were the survey questions chosen?

To make Illinois data comparable to larger-scale surveys, questions were drawn from the following sources:

Other survey items have been developed to meet specific data needs in Illinois.

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10. What do the IYS questions cover?

In addition to substance use and demographic questions, the survey covers some risk and protective factors for youth drug use and other youth risk behaviors. Because specific kinds of information about a youth’s community, peers, school, and family are statistically associated with degree of drug use among groups of youth, questions on those topics are also included. In addition, there are questions about violence and a few other “problem behaviors.”  View more information on survey content.

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11. Is the IYS customized by grade level?

Yes. The high school form covers the broadest set of behaviors, and the eighth grade form covers a narrower set of behaviors.

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12. Can the IYS be customized to local school and community issues and efforts?

Yes. Schools can add up to thirty additional questions at each grade level that is surveyed. These can be selected from question-assisting surveys or can be designed by school personnel, school youth groups, local community service programs, or any other organization that interfaces with local youth.  The results from the additional questions will be included in the individual school report at no additional cost. View more information on additional survey questions.

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13. How are IYS results generated?

  • A statewide aggregate report*, based on a random sample of Illinois public schools, is generated approximately 8 to12 months after survey administration. This report analyzes the results across Illinois and includes comparisons to the results from previous survey cycles.
  • County-level and Chicago Community Area reports* are made available if enough schools participate within a given county so as to maintain school confidentiality.
  • An individual school report is generated and sent solely to the school approximately 4 to 6 weeks after surveying is completed. If there are less than 10 students at any participating grade, no school results can be generated for that grade.
  • Specialized analyses may be discussed with CPRD and timelines will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

*Statewide, county and Chicago community area reports are posted on this website as they become available. View statewidecounty-level, or Chicago Community Area reports.

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14. Are individual school results shared with community agencies?

Upon receipt of a data release form signed by a school administrator, CPRD can send a copy of the school’s results to the school-authorized entity.

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15. Does participating in IYS lead students to experiment with new negative behaviors?

Questions on a survey do not pose a threat beyond the risks or hazards already in a student’s life. Research shows that substance use usually begins with either alcohol or tobacco. Exposure to alcohol or tobacco use will not be new to students, as it is prevalent in popular media and is often also seen among older siblings, friends, or friends' siblings. Marijuana use usually doesn’t occur unless a youth is already regularly using alcohol, and use of other drugs almost never happens unless a youth is already regularly using marijuana. Progression beyond alcohol use typically doesn’t happen unless there are some substantial risk factors already present.


The IYS questions are tailored to the age level of the student, with the high school form covering the broadest set of behaviors and the eighth grade form covering a narrower focus. Survey items simply ask if certain behaviors have occurred, neither encouraging nor discouraging behaviors. Students are encouraged to talk to their parent, school counselor, or other responsible adult if they are concerned about behaviors covered in the survey. In addition, the students are offered national crisis hotlines as another resource to express concerns. View the list of hotlines offered on this website.

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16. Will parents be concerned about the survey?

As with any discussion of social problems, parental responses will likely vary.  Some will enthusiastically support the administration of the survey, while others may be skeptical.  However, because underage drinking and other drug use are dangerous and widespread, schools have an obligation to proactively address the issue.  Participating in the IYS is one important step in that process because it provides guidance on questions that parents, school personnel, and community members have, including:

  • How much of a problem do we have?
  • What is the nature of that problem?
  • How can we address the problem?

Youth substance use is a community problem that intrudes upon the school and can only be solved when schools, prevention experts, and concerned parents work together. For these reasons, participation in the IYS survey is recommended by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois State Board of Education and supported by local personnel funded by the state to help schools with local questions about prevention and the survey.

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17. How can we address parents' concerns about the questions that are asked on the survey?

Questions regarding substance use, school violence, and mental health issues may be considered sensitive.  However, the only way to assess youth perception, attitudes, and behaviors in these areas is to ask questions.  Parents should know that the IYS questions are age-appropriate, and students can choose to not answer any question, or "opt out" of participating if they wish.  In addition, the survey is administered in ways that protect the privacy of the respondents, and the instrument is not linked to any personal identifiers.  This means that though an individual student may participate in subsequent years, there is no way to track behavior changes for that specific student.

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18. What if the IYS shows negative results for the school?

There is a tendency to doubt results when they are not as expected. However, given the validity of the survey it is important to focus on how to address the problems and monitor the progress by tracking all indicators related to the issues specific to your school. Accurate data is a first step to taking action and is a critical element when applying for funding.

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19. What is the timeframe for results?

Confidential school reports are generated for each participating school within 4 to 6 weeks from completion of the survey. If enough schools participate in your area, you may also obtain a county-level report. Statewide reports are also available to you in the spring following the survey administration year.

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20. If I don’t understand the results, will someone help me?

Yes. A webinar will be offered and recorded to help schools and other providers understand and use their data for planning, measuring progress, and/or applying for funding. Other training and technical assistance are offered on demand to schools and their community partners.

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21. Can we compare our data with others (county, state, other schools in similar areas)?

Yes. If enough schools participate, you may be able to compare to your county; you can also compare to groups of many other schools in similar areas (Chicago, suburban Chicago, other urban, or rural communities), and to the state. The IYS questions are also comparable to other national surveys, such as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Monitoring the Future Survey, Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance Systems (BRFSS), and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS).

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22. How does IYS data relate to our priority focus on academic achievement?

Research has shown that there is a relationship between substance abuse and academic achievement

  • Students who use drugs & alcohol are at greater risk for performing poorly in school[1]
  • Youth substance use results in lower grades and increased absenteeism[2]
  • Students who do not engage in drugs and alcohol have higher grades than their classmates who do use substances[3]

IYS data provides information on the scope of the problem in a school or area, so communities can work to reduce it, thereby contributing to improved academic achievement as well.

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23. Why must it be administered in the spring?

The IYS has been administered in the spring for more than a decade in order to match the testing timeframe of other national youth surveys, which allows for accurate comparisons between Illinois schools and national data.

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24. Why are 9th and 11th graders not surveyed?

The IYS is administered in the same grade levels as the national youth survey Monitoring the Future (8th, 10th, and 12th) to allow comparisons between Illinois schools and national data.

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25. How much does it cost to survey the rest of students at my school?

The cost of surveying other grade levels or administering the IYS in years not supported by IDHA (i.e., 2013, 2015, etc.) is $1 per completed survey.

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26. Which other schools have participated in the survey?

Go to the previous participation page to see which schools in your area have participated in the IYS since 2008. 

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27. How do I get my district on board to participate?

First, raise awareness of the IYS and demonstrate how the survey's data are useful for making informed decisions about prevention programming, monitoring, and applying for funding.  Find other schools in the area that could benefit from the IYS data and develop a plan to approach the school district superintendent. Emphasize that the survey is free of charge to the schools and that the schools in the district may include additional questions to meet local needs. Share relevant IYS resources and refer to the IYS Coordinator at CPRD as needed.

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28. What is the goal of the IYS?

Students who do not engage in substance use have better attendance, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to skip school, drop out or engage in risky behaviors. The IYS is a key part of a statewide effort to inform local schools and communities about youth attitudes and behaviors regarding substance abuse, school violence, school climate and other health and mental health topics. The data obtained through the IYS allows schools, communities, and state administrators to develop strategic plans for promoting healthy behaviors among their youth.   

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29. How is IYS data used?

The Illinois Department of Human Services, many Illinois counties, local communities, and schools use IYS data in community health assessments to provide baseline information required to apply for grants and other funding sources, and for planning, evaluating and reporting progress on interventions that promote healthy behaviors in youth.

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30. Why are specific words written in all caps (e.g., CAR) in questions U21-U26 on the high school survey?

Questions U21-U26 are on the IYS High School form only added in 2012, following consultation with specialists in adolescent early intervention.  These items are from a 6 question screening tool called the CRAFFT Screening Tool.  The CRAFFT is used both in clinical and primary care settings to screen adolescents for high risk alcohol and other drug use behaviors.  The screening questions DO NOT diagnose substance abuse dependency or addiction but provide a way to determine if there is an elevated need for schools and their community partners to increase opportunities for referral and intervention services (e.g. Student Assistance Programs, school/district ATOD policy that refers rather than punishes, etc). Because CRAFFT is a validated screening tool, the IYS includes the wording (with the words in all caps) exactly as developed in the tool.

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[1] Bergen, H. A., Martin, G., Roeger, L., & Allison, S. (2005). Perceived academic performance and alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use: Longitudinal relationships in young community adolescents. Addictive Behaviors, 30, 1563-1573.

[2] Hanson, T.L. and Austin, G. (2003). Student Health Risks, Resilience, and Academic Performance in California: Year 2 Report, Longitudinal Analyses. Los Alamitos, CA: WestEd

[3] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Adolescent and School Health (Retrieved 8/18/11). Student Health and Academic Achievement http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/health_and_academics/#1Link will open in a new window .