Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey (YAS)?

The YAS is a countywide online survey about the health behaviors of 8th , 10th , and 12th grade students. The first YAS was completed in 2005. Fall of 2023 is the tenth administration of the survey, which is given every other year. You can view the most recent YAS report and companion resources at the Ottawa County YAS website.

Why is the YAS important?

Success in academics, athletics, and the arts is difficult if teens are bullied, hungry, depressed, or using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The YAS measures the percent of teens experiencing these issues, and many other risk behaviors. With statistics from the YAS, parents, schools, and other community organizations can effectively provide teens with support and programming that prevents unhealthy behaviors and experiences, and measure changes in teen behavior over time. By working together to support teen health and using the YAS as a measuring tool, the community can improve teen health outcomes which in turn can improve academic, athletic, and artistic success, and give teens their best opportunity at a healthy and productive future.

Why should school systems participate in the YAS?

Results of the YAS can be used by schools in the following ways:

  • To identify the most appropriate content and issues to address in health education programs
  • To identify needed programs and services to reduce risks and enable students to be successful
  • To contribute to a Coordinated School Health Plan-Comprehensive Needs Assessment
  • To develop reproductive health curriculum content and objectives specific to student needs
  • When addressing student health needs using the Michigan Integrated Continuous Improvement Process (MICIP), YAS results can help identify challenges and successes
  • To secure grants and other funds
What grade level students take the survey and how are these students selected?

The survey is administered to 8th , 10th , and 12th grade students representing a cross-section of the student body. Ideally, the YAS is administered in required classes which have students from a variety of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. School systems may administer the YAS to 7th , 9th , and 11th graders as well. Student participation is voluntary, and parents/guardians may remove their consent when they receive a parent notification from their student’s school.

When is the survey administered?

The YAS is typically administered during the fall, usually in October, in every odd-numbered year. If school is substantially disrupted, the YAS Committee will work to support rescheduling of the survey.

How long does it take students to complete the survey?

Students will need a maximum of 45-50 minutes; or not more than one class period. Because some students may complete the YAS in as little as 15-20 minutes, school systems should be prepared to provide students who finish early with other activities.

What type of information is collected?

Students are asked questions regarding their health and risk behaviors in the following areas: unintentional injuries, violence and bullying, social media involvement and sexting, sadness and suicidal behavior, alcohol, tobacco and other substance use, dietary behavior and physical activity, overweight and weight perception, housing, stress, trauma, sexual health and behavior, and risk and protective factors. Many questions asked on the YAS are similar to those asked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavioral Survey and the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) Michigan Profile for Healthy Youth. While sexual health and behavior questions are optional for each school system, in past years many school systems elected to include these questions so staff and families can use data informed strategies to support safe and healthy student decisions.

Is the YAS voluntary? Are there required questions?

Participation in the YAS is voluntary and students can skip nearly all questions. The only question with a required response is grade, which is essential for statistical analysis. Additionally, sexual health and behavior questions are not presented to students in school systems that have opted out of the optional sexual health and behavior section.

Why does the YAS contain optional questions about sexual health and behavior?

Questions about sexual health and behavior (also called reproductive health and gender identity questions) are optional for each school system. Further, students in school systems that include sexual health and behavior questions are not required to answer them. Sexual health and behavior questions primarily relate to the risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV infection. Some questions help identify protective factors to reduce early sexual activity. In response to parent and school concerns, the 2019 survey added questions assessing a student’s exposure to pornography – the prevalence and first age of exposure. In 2021, a sexual orientation question was added to the optional sexual health and behavior section, and in 2023, the optional sexual health and behavior section included a question about gender identity.

What steps have been taken to ensure student and school system confidentiality?

Students record their responses on a computer, providing no identifying information. Only countywide results are presented in the final published report. Some school systems choose to make their results available by quadrant which are compiled only if multiple school systems in a quadrant participate.

How do we know teens are giving honest answers?

The YAS is administered in an environment where teens can share their experiences in a voluntary, safe, and anonymous way, reducing perceived pressure teens may feel to answer dishonestly. Also, safeguards are in place when the data is being collected and analyzed to prevent or remove dishonest answers. While small numbers of unrealistic and erroneous answers will always be present in the data, most teens likely respond to the YAS truthfully.

How is the data used and by whom?

The data is combined and summarized to create reports with statistics that are used by school personnel and community service providers to assess needs, plan prevention and intervention strategies, secure and keep grant funds, and monitor progress or detect emerging health issues by tracking trend data. County-level YAS reports are publicly available and can be used by anyone in the community, including parents/guardians. School system reports are available to participating schools.

Are Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) questions asked of students?

Although some questions on the YAS ask about trauma, standardized ACEs questions were not included in the 2023 YAS survey.

How long has the YAS been in existence?

The first YAS was completed in 2005. Fall of 2023 was the tenth administration of the survey, which is given every other year.

How much does it cost?

There is no cost to the school or district. For the 2023 YAS cycle, direct funding for the project is a collaborative effort of the Ottawa Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition / Arbor Circle, Corewell Health, Holland Hospital, Trinity Health and community foundations in Ottawa County.

How many Ottawa County school systems have participated in past administrations?

Participation in the YAS has grown since 2005. In a typical cycle, ten or more school systems participate, including public and private school systems, academies, and alternative education programs.

What does a school system receive in exchange for participating?

School systems do not receive any financial compensation for participation, only a report of their combined and summarized results.

There are national and State of Michigan youth surveys. Why does Ottawa County need one?

Surveys conducted at the national or state level, onetime surveys, and surveys addressing only certain categories of health-risk behaviors cannot meet all the local data needs to implement and fund interventions and resilience programs that support Ottawa County youth. While both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) surveys provide valuable youth data, the YAS is widely utilized by districts in Ottawa County, providing more robust local data. Since both the YAS and data are locally “owned”, Ottawa’s survey is responsive to community concerns and emerging issues, has full data available for special analyses, and has local experts who can provide consultation and presentation support to the community.

How can community organizations use the results of the YAS?

Using publicly available county-level YAS reports, community organizations can:

  • Create and seek grant funding opportunities
  • Develop and evaluate programming
  • Educate community members and local organizations on teen health
How can parents/guardians use the results of the YAS?

Using publicly available county-level YAS reports, parents/guardians can:

  • Be informed about the prevalence of teen behaviors
  • Discuss with their teen any misperceptions about how many teens are using substances or engaging in specific behaviors
  • Learn how teens perceive their parents’ and peers’ views on different behaviors
  • Help guide their teens in becoming physically, emotionally, and mentally healthy adults
Who coordinates the YAS process?

The YAS Committee Members: Arbor Circle, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, United Way of Ottawa and Allegan Counties, Lakeshore Regional Entity, and the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

If a school system would like to participate or they have more questions, who should be contacted?

Stephanie VanDerKooi, Lakeshore Regional Entity, stephaniev@lsre.org or Stacey Sills, Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, ssills@oaisd.org.

Funding in 2023 Provided By