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Pennsylvania State Youth Survey (PAYS)

The Pennsylvania State Youth survey is issued statewide in the fall of odd-numbered years to any school that opts to participate. COCA urges Berks County schools to participate, because the survey provides crucial information into attitudes and behaviors of Berks County youth on a number of issues that put students at risk. It also helps gauge the effectiveness of existing prevention and intervention programs.


See 2017 Survey Results for Berks Co.

“The Pennsylvania Youth Survey data is a key piece for prevention planning in Berks County. It helps establish priorities and target audiences for current and future programs,”  said COCA Prevention Program Manager Jaclyn Steed.

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About the 2017 PAYS Berks Survey Results

How many Berks County students took the survey?

In Berks County, eight school districts and one charter school participated, administering the survey to students in 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades, yielding a total of nearly 8,000 valid surveys. While that is a large number, it unfortunately represents less than half of the 18 public school districts in the county.

Participating schools included: Antietam School District, Boyertown Area School District, Brandywine Heights Area School District, Conrad Weiser Area School District, Exeter Township School District, Governor Mifflin School District, I-LEAD Charter School, Kutztown Area School District, and Reading School District.

Do schools that participate benefit from PAYS?

Yes. PAYS data is mandatory for the Berks County Needs Assessment, which is required to secure state funding for prevention services. Reading School District, for example, received three years of funding for Project Towards No Drug Abuse as a result of PAYS data. The district also received six years of funding, as well as teacher trainings and curriculum materials for Botvin Life Skills, an evidence-based substance abuse and violence prevention program.

What types of questions were asked in the survey?

The 2017 PAYS questionnaire asked students about bullying, school safety, gambling, depression and, the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. PAYS also asked questions about mental health and suicide risk.

What were some of the key results?

Overall, 27.4% of students in Berks County indicated experiencing bullying in the past 12 months (compared to 28.2% of students at the state level).

The survey asked questions about lifetime use of drugs and alcohol. In Berks County, 44.5% of students reported having used alcohol at some point in their lives and 19.2% had used marijuana, compared to, respectively, 43.3% and 17.7% at the state level.

In Berks County, 41.5% of students reported they felt sad or depressed most days in the past 12 months. Overall, 16.9% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 16.5% of students at the state level.