IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Using Federal Education Data to Inform Policymaking: Part 1–Benefits and Advantages

While federal, state, and district policymakers have used education data as the backbone of their policy and funding decisions for years, there’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to highlight the criticality of reliable data and illuminate the gaps in our collective knowledge. 

But where can policymakers find education datasets that are large enough for comparative or trend analyses while still specific enough to measure timely issues in local contexts? How can policymakers extract and interpret information from these education datasets? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is a perfect resource for these data and information needs.  

In this two-part blog series, we’ll discuss the role of NCES as the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing essential education data in the United States and highlight a specific NCES survey—the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)—which is designed to support state and district policymakers.

Federal, state, and district decisionmakers need reliable, trustworthy data to inform education funding and policy regulations. In order to enact good laws that best serve all of our students and school staff, they need data that are as diverse and representative as our schools. As a federal statistical agency, NCES fulfills a Congressional mandate to collect, analyze, and report statistics on the condition of U.S. education and is the primary source that policymakers and other decisionmakers rely on for education data. These efforts include administrative data collections and cross-sectional, longitudinal, and assessment surveys that gather information to help the education sector better understand early childhood, K–12, and postsecondary education nationally and internationally.

The NTPS exemplifies the utility of NCES data. NTPS data are available both nationally and by state (via the NTPS State Dashboard and DataLab) and are used by policymakers and researchers to make funding and other policy decisions. NCES also helps decisionmakers, researchers, and the public use and make sense of the data by providing access to NTPS datasets and publishing reports, such as numerous NTPS reports, the Condition of Education, and the Digest of Education Statistics.

The NTPS collects data about school conditions and the demographics of public and private K–12 teachers and principals directly from school staff themselves, providing critical data on educators’ perspectives and experiences in schools every day.

The NTPS has been collected in one form or another since 1987–88—when it was known as the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)—and was last conducted during the 2020–21 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 2023–24 NTPS is currently being conducted.

Let’s use the NTPS to answer a few common questions about the role of federal education data.

1. Why do federal data matter to district policymakers if states and districts have their own local collections?

In a postpandemic world cleaved into “before” and “after,” policymakers at all levels need information on the condition of education across the country to craft policies that are truly reflective of the needs, challenges, and strengths of students and staff.

Since education in the United States is primarily a state and local responsibility, it can be difficult to make comparisons between states if we don’t have a federal agency collecting the data in a systematic and comparable way across the country. The NTPS, for example, publishes both public school data at the national and state levels and representative public and private school, principal, and teacher data for several characteristics (e.g., type of community in which a school is located; percentage enrollment of students of color; staff characteristics like race/ethnicity and years of experience).  

Figure 1 shows an NTPS-based example of how using common questions across all school systems supports important cross-state comparisons. This is just one of hundreds of similar comparisons that have been made using NTPS data on topics such as teachers’ classroom experiences and principals’ challenges filling needed teacher vacancies. Comparisons can also focus on different school, principal, and teacher characteristics (e.g., type of community in which a school is located; level of training for staff; race/ethnicity of staff).


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools that provide instruction beyond the school day for students who need academic assistance: 2020–21

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Data File,” 2020–21.


The primary responsibility of state or district education decisionmakers is to use trustworthy data to support the needs of their local schools and families Thankfully, state, district, and school leadership don’t need to assume the full financial and logistical responsibility on their own when there are federal data available that can help with state and local data needs. The same federal education data underpinning congressional funding decisions, policy choices, and guidance can be used for numerous state, district, and school policy and practice decisions as well—if education leaders know where to look.

Federal, state, and district education agencies and schools all serve different roles in the education sector but have similar and mutually beneficial responsibilities and goals on behalf of students and school staff (figure 2).


Figure 2. Mutually beneficial relationships


NCES and its predecessors have been congressionally mandated since 1867 to collect, analyze, and report data on the condition and progress of U.S. education for policymakers to use as a tool when making decisions to support our students and our school staff. National and state-level estimates from NCES surveys support state and district data efforts and strategic goals. For example, the California State Senate used state-level NTPS school start time data1 to inform SB:328 (a bill to require California school districts to shift middle and high school start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m.), which was passed in 2017 and amended in 2021.  

2. How do federal data benefit everyone in the education sector?

NCES produces unique data and information products that rely on statistics produced from data collected through state or district records and a suite of surveys, the majority of which come directly from responses given by educators, students, and families. For example, NCES produces an annual report to Congress called the Condition of Education. The Condition of Education summarizes and makes sense of data from more than 25 data collections administered by NCES and other government agencies. Federal policymakers also rely on other NCES reports, such as the annual Digest of Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics, and Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety. For an example of the indicators available in the Condition of Education, see the figure below, which is from Characteristics of Traditional Public, Public Charter, and Private School Teachers.


Figure 3. Percentage distribution of teachers in traditional public, public charter, and private elementary and secondary schools, by highest degree earned: School year 2020–21

 

1 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level. Includes certificate of advanced graduate studies.
NOTE: Excludes teachers who teach only prekindergarten. Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File” and “Private School Teacher Data File,” 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, tables 209.10 and 209.21.


The Condition of Education and other NCES reports and data products provide information on key topics in education to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and senior staff within many federal agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Agriculture (USDA). Some of the recent policy initiatives and research initiatives supported by NTPS data include the following:

 

In part 2 of this blog series, we will present the challenges and opportunities created by using federal education data to inform policymaking at the federal, state, and district levels. 


NCES would like to thank every district, school, administrator, teacher, parent, and student who has previously approved or participated in an NCES survey. We wouldn’t be able to produce our reports and data products without your participation.

We are currently conducting the 2023–24 NTPS to learn more about school and educator experiences following the pandemic. Find more information about the NTPS, including findings and details from prior collections.

 

By Maura Spiegelman and Julia Merlin, NCES


[1] The California State Senate Bill 328 referenced data from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which was the direct predecessor to the NTPS.

The Regional Educational Lab Program: Making a Difference in Educator Recruitment and Retention

Torrence Williams, Director of Teacher Advancement at the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, leads a professional learning module training for Louisiana’s New Teacher Experience program.
Torrence Williams, director of teacher advancement at the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana, leads a professional learning module training for Louisiana’s New Teacher Experience program.

The Regional Educational Labs (REL) program, operated by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), supports state education agencies, schools and school districts, and institutions of higher education nationwide in using data and evidence-based practice to improve opportunities and outcome for learners. Operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States of the Pacific region, the REL program brings together the expertise of local communities, top-tier education researchers, and education scientists at IES’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE) to address the most vexing problems of education policy and practice in states and regions—on demand and free of charge.

It's not exactly breaking news that many schools in our country struggle to fill vacancies in their teacher workforce. This past fall, IES’s National Center for Education Statistics surveyed public school leaders about staffing challenges as they began the 2022-23 school year. The statistics were sobering: 45 percent of schools reported having at least one vacant position more than one month into the school year, and more than 25 percent of schools reported multiple vacancies. Worryingly, our most underserved students were experiencing this crisis most acutely, with roughly 60 percent of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods or with a high-minority student body reporting at least one vacancy. While all of us anxiously await data on the 2023-24 school year—which should be available later this year—RELs and their state and local partners are working to strengthen all aspects of the teacher pipeline.

In the second of a four-part blog series, we highlight four REL research and development projects that address educator recruitment and retention. Each demonstrates how RELs are leveraging their distinct capacity for innovation, rigorous research, and authentic partnership to deliver locally focused and evidence-based supports to the regions, states, and communities they serve.

REL Northwest: Examining Strategies to Improve Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Rural Alaska

Like many rural school districts across the nation, Alaska’s Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) is experiencing a persistent and pressing need to attract and retain educators. Near the start of the 2022-23 school year, 78 positions—nearly one-quarter of all teaching positions in the district—remained unfilled. New teachers were often recruited to the district from other countries such as the Philippines, leading to low retention rates and a constant churn of new educators. Faced with this persistent, high-stakes problem, leadership at LKSD decided to partner with REL Northwest to discover research-based solutions to their teacher recruitment and retention crisis.

REL Northwest is partnering with LKSD to identify evidence-based strategies and tools to continuously monitor and improve working conditions with the goal of increasing teacher retention. To do that, LKSD plans to implement the recommendation of strengthening teacher working conditions from the state's Teacher Retention and Recruitment Plan. As a first step in this partnership, REL Northwest staff reviewed and summarized research on working conditions and teacher retention to identify eight factors that may influence a teacher's decision to stay or leave.  

Lower Kuskokwim leaders decided to focus on activities to identify how changes related to three of those factors—supportive school leadership, available time for teachers, and community engagement—may improve working conditions. The first activity will adapt existing LKSD data sources and develop a research-informed tool to monitor teacher perceptions of school leadership and collect further data to inform the district’s action plan.

Staff also identified a school leadership responsibility unique to their district that may affect teacher trust: managing teacher housing. Housing is a major challenge, not only in remote villages without road access, but in many areas of the country. REL Northwest led partners through an activity to brainstorm how school leaders could improve housing and develop a theory of action for how those strategies would improve working conditions and promote retention. The strategies included establishing realistic housing expectations for new teachers, revising the process for leader evaluation of housing needs, and changing the budgeting process to make maintenance needs and upgrades easier. As a result of the work, district leaders are designing a program that allows teachers to apply for district funding to make simple housing upgrades, such as changes in lighting or painting.

REL Central: Strengthening the Teacher Pipeline in South Dakota to alleviate Teacher Shortages

Like many states, South Dakota is experiencing a teacher shortage that has worsened in recent years. Late last year, SDDOE partnered with REL Central to support one component of their response to this challenge: developing new pathways into teaching for candidates such as paraprofessionals and other South Dakota residents who have interest in entering the teacher workforce. Initially, the work focused on the design and implementation of a teacher apprenticeship program designed to support paraprofessionals as they acquire their teaching degrees and as they are mentored to become certified teachers.

In March, REL Central began work with SDDOE on a fast-turnaround project to support the development of a survey for paraprofessionals about their interest in the pilot apprenticeship program and the types of supports they seek from mentor teachers. Within a matter of weeks, the survey was developed and administered to paraprofessionals statewide. With survey data in hand indicating that hundreds of South Dakota paraprofessionals were interested in such a program, the pilot was expanded by SDDOE to support additional slots starting in fall 2023. In the coming months, REL Central will work with SDDOE to further refine this program by incorporating research evidence from other “Grow Your Own” teacher workforce programs on the components of effective mentoring and by helping the state to generate, collect, analyze, and use data from participants to inform further improvements to the pilot apprenticeship program.

REL Pacific: Strengthening the teacher workforce in Palau

The Republic of Palau, like many school systems, has experienced challenges in recruiting and retaining enough teachers to provide every student with a high-quality education. The geographic isolation of Palau compounds these challenges. Many local Palauan teachers do not have a four-year college degree or are teaching outside of their area of certification. As was the case in Alaska’s Lower Kuskokwim School District, one solution has been to bring in teachers from out of the country to fill vacancies; however, the turnover rate of these teachers is very high. The Palau Partnership to Support Teacher Effectiveness–– a collaboration with the Palau Ministry of Education (MOE), Palau Community College (PCC), six private schools, and REL Pacific ––is focused on building more sustainable solutions. 

The long-term goals of the partnership include Palau private schools adopting a teacher effectiveness measurement system to support, develop, and retain effective teachers; Palau private schools adopting a systemwide instructional coaching process for improving teacher effectiveness; and Palau MOE and PCC reviewing data on the effects of teacher education programs and making implementation adjustments so that their available resources may be used more effectively and efficiently. 

REL Pacific is supporting partner schools to realize their goals by drawing from resources on indicators of successful teacher recruitment and retention as well as best practices of effective teaching. REL Pacific is providing schools training and coaching on data-driven decision-making and plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycles in the context of the schools’ goals to improve literacy instruction through developing systemic supports for teachers. By incorporating ways of measuring best practices of effective teaching into the schools’ instructional coaching processes, each school will be better able to enact systemic change to address its specific teacher development and retention needs. Additionally, an applied research study is underway that will describe teacher pathways and certification patterns. The findings from this descriptive study will inform future efforts of Palau’s education community to address the new teacher certification requirements and overall educator shortage crisis.

REL Southwest: Partnering to support early career and aspiring teachers in Louisiana

Louisiana’s educator shortage is compounded with low retention rates for early-career teachers. Teachers with 2–5 years of experience left public schools in 2020 at a rate of 30 percent, compared with 17 percent of teachers with 6–10 years of experience. REL Southwest and the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) have formed the Supporting Early Career and Aspiring Teachers (SECAT) partnership to improve supports for novice and aspiring teachers. Through the SECAT partnership, REL Southwest aims to strengthen LDOE’s capacity to use evidence to refine new initiatives that support early career and aspiring teachers, such as the New Teacher Experience program and the Louisiana Pre-Educator Pathway, the state’s largest “Grow Your Own” program. This work builds from a previous partnership between REL Southwest and LDOE focused on exploring and evaluating the early impacts of Louisiana’s Believe and Prepare teacher residency program.  

The work of the SECAT partnership kicked off this past spring. Over the next five years, REL Southwest will work with LDOE and school systems in Louisiana to strengthen their capacity to generate and use evidence to refine existing programs for early career and aspiring teachers. In the first year of the partnership, REL Southwest and LDOE partners plan to focus on technical assistance that builds LDOE’s capacity for evaluating the New Teacher Experience. In future years of the partnership, REL Southwest will study LDOE’s efforts to support new and aspiring teachers. Along the way, REL Southwest will share important takeaways, resources, and policy implications related to teacher recruitment and retention learned through the partnership with Louisiana.

Stay tuned for part three of our “Making a Difference” series, focused on school accountability systems. As always, my (virtual) door is open if you have questions about the work highlighted in this blog, or anything else on REL Program. Just email me at chris.boccanfuso@ed.gov.

What We are Learning from Research Using NAEP Mathematics Response Process Data

Three students (two using tablets, one using a laptop) sitting at a library table

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the largest nationally representative and ongoing assessment of subject knowledge among students in public and private schools in the United States. On the 2017 eighth grade mathematics assessment, 38% of students without disabilities scored at the NAEP Proficient level or above while 25% scored below the NAEP Basic level. However, for students with disabilities, math achievement levels were much worse. Only about 9% of students with disabilities scored at the NAEP Proficient level or above whereas 69% scored below the NAEP Basic level. In response to this gap, in 2021, the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) released a funding opportunity to coincide with the release of the 2017 Grade 8 NAEP Mathematics response process data. NCSER intended to support research that explores how learners with disabilities interact with the NAEP digital assessment to better support these learners in test-taking environments and determine whether and how that information could be used to inform instructional practices. There is much to learn from research on NAEP process data for understanding test-taking behaviors and achievement of learners with disabilities. Below we showcase the latest findings from currently funded research and encourage more investigators to conduct research with newly released process data.

Since 2017, administrations of NAEP have captured a variety of response process data, including keystrokes as learners progress through the assessment, how learners use the available tools (such as the calculator), and how accommodations (for example, text-to-speech or more time to complete the assessment) affect performance. Besides score data, NAEP datasets also include survey data from learners, teachers, and schools, and information on test item characteristics and student demographics (including disability). Together, these data provide a unique opportunity for researchers to conduct an in-depth investigation of the test-taking behavior and the mathematics competencies of learners with disabilities compared to their peers without disabilities.  

In July 2021, IES awarded two grants to conduct research using NAEP process data. The results of these projects are expected to improve the future development and administration of digital learning assessments, identify needed enhancements to mathematics instruction, and highlight areas where further research is needed.  Although these projects are ongoing, we would like to highlight findings from one of the funded projects awarded to SRI International and led by principal investigator Xin Wei  entitled Analysis of NAEP Mathematics Process, Outcome, and Survey Data to Understand Test-Taking Behavior and Mathematics Performance of Learners with Disabilities.

The findings from this study, recently published in Autism, is an example of the power of process data to shed new light on learners with disabilities. Focusing on autistic students, Xin Wei and her team analyzed data from 15 items on the NAEP math assessment, their response time in seconds, their score on the items (including partially correct scoring), and survey data related to their enjoyment, interest, and persistence in math. They also analyzed the content of each item using Flesch Reading Ease scores to measure the reading difficulty level of the item. Finally, they rated each item based on the complexity of any social context of the item, as prior research has shown that these contexts can be more challenging for autistic students. They conducted statistical analyses to compare the performance of autistic students with extended time accommodations, autistic students without accommodations, and general education peers. The researchers were not only looking for any areas of weakness, but also areas of strength. Previous studies have demonstrated that autistic people frequently excel in abstract spatial reasoning and calculation tasks, relying more on visual-mental representations than verbal ones.

The findings showed that in comparison to their general education peers, unaccommodated autistic students scored higher and solved math problems involving the identification of figures more quickly. Unaccommodated autistic students were also faster than their general education peers at solving the following types of math items: comparing measures using unit conversions, mentally rotating a triangle, interpreting linear equations, and constructing data analysis plots. Although autistic students who used the extended-time accommodation were lower performing than the other two groups, they had a higher accuracy rate on items involving identifying figures and calculating the diameter of a circle. Both groups of autistic students seem to perform poorer on word problems. Researchers concluded that the linguistic complexity could be one of the reasons that autistic students struggle with math word problems; however, there were two word problems with which they seemed to struggle despite the fact that they were not linguistically complex. It turns out that the items were rated as having substantial social context complexity. The researchers also looked at the student survey data on what types of math they enjoyed more and found they had more enjoyment working with shapes and figures and less enjoyment for solving equations.

The researchers recommend incorporating meta-cognitive and explicit schema instruction during mathematics instruction to aid autistic students in understanding real-life math word problems. They also recommend that assessment developers consider simplifying the language and social context of math word problems to make the assessment more equitable, fair, and accessible for autistic students. Because the autistic student population is particularly heterogenous, more research is required to better understand how to improve instructional strategies for them.

IES plans to release the same type of process data from the 2017 Grade 4 NAEP Mathematics at the end of this summer. We encourage researchers to request these process data to conduct research to understand test-taking behavior and performance of students with disabilities at the elementary school level. For a source of funding for the work, consider applying to the current Special Education Research Grants competition. Here are some important resources to support your proposal writing:

This blog was authored by Sarah Brasiel (Sarah.Brasiel@ed.gov), program officer at NCSER, and Juliette Gudknecht, summer data science intern at IES and graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University. IES encourages special education researchers to use NAEP response process data for research under the Exploration project type within our standard Special Education Research Grants Program funding opportunity.   

Adult Foundational Skills Research: Reflections on PIAAC and Data on U.S. Adult Skills

In this blog, NCER program officer, Dr. Meredith Larson, interviews Dr. Holly Xie from NCES about the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), an OECD-developed international survey  of adult skills in literacy, numeracy, and digital problem solving administered at least once a decade. PIAAC also collects information on adult activities (such as skill use at home or work, civic participation, etc.), demographics (such as level of education, race), and other factors (such as health outcomes). To date, NCER has funded three research grants (herehere, and here) and one training grant that relied on PIAAC data.

NCES has led the U.S. efforts in administering PIAAC and has been sharing results for over a decade. PIAAC in Cycle I (PIAAC I) included three waves of data collection in the United States with the first data released in 2013. From PIAAC I, we learned a wealth of information about the skills of U.S. adults. For example, the 2017 wave of data collection found that the percentages of U.S. adults performing at the lowest levels were 19 percent in literacy, 29 percent in numeracy, and 24 percent in digital problem solving. As we look forward to learning from PIAAC II, Dr. Xie reflects on the products from PIAAC I and possibilities for PIAAC II (release in 2024).

What is your role at NCES and with PIAAC specifically?

I am the PIAAC national program manager and oversee all aspects of the PIAAC study in the United States, including development and design, data collection, analysis and reporting, and dissemination/outreach. I also represent the United States at PIAAC international meetings.

What is something you’re particularly excited about having produced during PIAAC I?

I am most excited about the U.S. PIAAC Skills Map. The Skills Map provides information on adult skills at the state and county levels. Users can explore adult skills in literacy and numeracy in their state or county and get estimates of literacy or numeracy proficiency overall and by age and education levels. Or they can compare a county to a state, a state to the nation, or compare counties (or states) to each other. The map also has demographic and socioeconomic data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to provide context for the state or county estimates. This YouTube video demonstrates what the map can do.

 

 

We also have other PIAAC web products and publications such as national and international reports, Data Points, and PIAAC publications that provide invaluable information on U.S. adult skills and interrelationships of those skills to other social, economic, and demographic factors.

Do you have examples of how information from PIAAC I has been used?

PIAAC data cover results at the national, state, and county levels, and as such, they can be useful for policymakers or decision makers who would like to know where things stand in terms of the skills of their adult population and where they need to allocate resources at these different levels of the system. In other words, PIAAC data can be useful for drafting targeted policies and programs that will benefit their population and constituencies.

For instance, at the national level, former Vice President Biden used information from PIAAC I in his report Ready to Work for the June 2014 reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, known as WIOA. PIAAC was also cited in the discussion of extending the Second Chance Pell experiment as identified in the 2019 report titled Prisoners’ Eligibility for Pell Grants: Issues for Congress.

The Digital Equity Act of 2021 also leveraged the PIAAC. This legislation identifies particular populations that determine the funding formula. The quick guide to these populations uses PIAAC to estimate one of these populations: Individuals with a language barrier, including individuals who are English learners and have low levels of literacy.

Local governments have also used PIAAC products. For example, the Houston Mayor’s Office for Adult Literacy in collaboration with the Barbara Bush Foundation used the PIAAC Skills Map data to inform the Adult Literacy Blueprint.

And the adult education advocacy group, ProLiteracy, also used the PIAAC and the Skills Map to develop a toolkit for local program adult education and adult literacy program advocacy.

When will the results of PIAAC II be available, and how does this cycle differ from PIAAC I?

PIAAC II data collection began in 2022 and results will be released in December 2024 and will include information on the literacy, numeracy, and adaptive problem-solving skills of adults in the United States. The numeracy assessment now includes a measure of “numeracy components,” which focus on number sense, smaller/bigger number values, measurement, etc. This information will help us learn more about the skills of adults who have very low numeracy skills. The adaptive problem-solving component is a new PIAAC module and will measure the ability to achieve one’s goals in a dynamic situation in which a method for reaching a solution is not directly available.

PIAAC II will also include, for the first time, questions about financial literacy in the background questionnaire, using items on managing money and tracking spending and income, savings methods, and budgeting. These additional questions will allow people to explore relationships between foundational skills, financial literacy, and other constructs in PIAAC.

What types of research could you imagine stemming from the PIAAC II?

One of the most unique features of PIAAC (both PIAAC I and II) is the direct assessment of literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills (information that no other large-scale assessment of adults provides). Thirty-one countries, including the United States, participated in PIAAC II (2022/23), so researchers will be able to compare the adult skills at the international level and also study trends between PIAAC I and PIAAC II.

It’s worth noting that the data collection took place while we were still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This may provide researchers opportunities to explore how the pandemic is related to adults’ skills, health, employment, training, and education status.

Where can the public access data from PIAAC?

Researchers can find information about the available data from the national U.S. PIAAC 2017 Household, PIAAC 2012/14 Household, and PIAAC 2014 Prison datasets, and international and trend datasets on the NCES Data Files page. PIAAC restricted-use data files contain more detailed information, such as continuous age and earnings variables, that can be used for more in-depth analysis. Accessing the restricted-use data requires a restricted-use license from NCES.

NCES also has an easy-to-use online analysis tool: the International Data Explorer (IDE). The IDE allows users to work directly with the PIAAC data and produce their own analyses, tables, regressions, and charts. An IDE tutorial video provides comprehensive, step-by-step instructions on how to use this tool. It contains detailed information about the content and capabilities of the PIAAC IDE, as well as how the PIAAC data are organized in the tool.


This blog was produced by Meredith Larson (Meredith.Larson@ed.gov), research analyst and program officer for postsecondary and adult education, NCER.

Highlights From the FY 21 Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education Report

NCES recently released a finance tables report, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: FY 21 (NCES 2023-301), which draws from data in the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS). To accompany the report, NCES has updated the interactive data visualization tool to highlight the per pupil revenues and expenditures (adjusted for inflation) and average daily attendance (ADA) trends from the fiscal year 2021 (FY 21) NPEFS.

This tool allows users to see national or state-specific per pupil amounts and year-to-year percentage changes for both total revenue and current expenditures by using a slider to toggle between the two variables. Total revenues are shown by source, and total current expenditures are shown by function and subfunction. Clicking on a state in the map will display data for the selected state in the bar charts.

The tool also allows users to see the ADA for each state. It is sortable by state, ADA amount, and percentage change. It may also be filtered to easily compare selected states. Hovering over the ADA of a state will display another bar graph with the last 3 years of ADA data.

Overall, the results show that spending1 on elementary and secondary education increased in school year 2020–21 (FY 21). This is the eighth consecutive year that year-over-year education spending increased (since FY 13), after adjusting for inflation. This increase follows declines in year-over-year spending for the prior 4 years (FY 10 through FY 13).

 

Revenues

The 50 states and the District of Columbia reported $837.3 billion in revenues collected for public elementary and secondary education in FY 21. State and local governments provided $748.9 billion, or 89.4 percent of all revenues. The federal government contributed $88.4 billion, or 10.6 percent of all revenues. Total revenues increased by 3.0 percent after adjusting for inflation2 (from $812.8 to $837.3 billion) from FY 20 to FY 21; local revenues remained relatively unchanged (from $365.1 to $365.1 billion); state revenues decreased by 0.6 percent (from $385.9 to $383.8 billion); and federal revenues increased by 43.2 percent (from $61.8 to $88.4 billion).

Total revenues per pupil averaged $17,015 on a national basis in FY 21. This reflects an increase of 5.9 percent between FY 20 and FY 21 and follows an increase of 1.5 percent from FY 19 to FY 20. The percentage change in revenues per pupil from FY 20 to FY 21 ranged from an increase of 15.3 percent in Maine to a decrease of 4.2 percent in Hawaii.


Image of NPEFS data visualization site showing revenues per pupil for public elementary and secondary schools in FY 20 and FY 21


Revenues from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds for public elementary and secondary education totaled $25.3 billion, or 28.6 percent of all federal revenues.

  • Revenues from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund accounted for $8.9 billion, or 35.2 percent of total revenues from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds.
     
  • Revenues from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER I) Fund accounted for $8.5 billion, or 33.7 percent of total revenues from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds.
     
  • Revenues from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER II) Fund accounted for $6.5 billion, or 25.8 percent of total revenues from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds.

 

Expenditures

Current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education across the nation increased by 0.7 percent between FY 20 and FY 21 (from $698.3 to $703.5 billion). Within that increase, expenditures for instruction increased by 1.1 percent between FY 20 and FY 21 (from $422.4 to $427.1 billion), and student support expenditures increased by 3.6 percent between FY 20 and FY 21 (from $44.0 to $45.6 billion).

Current expenditures per pupil for the day-to-day operation of public elementary and secondary schools was $14,295 in FY 21, an increase of 3.5 percent from FY 20.3 In FY 21, education spending was 16.7 percent higher than at the lowest point of the Great Recession in FY 13.


Figure 1. National inflation-adjusted current expenditures per public for public elementary and secondary education: Fiscal years 2012 through 2021

 

NOTE: Spending is reported in constant FY 21 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). National totals include the 50 states and the District of Columbia. California did not report prekindergarten membership in the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. California reported prekindergarten expenditures separately, and these expenditures were excluded from the amounts reported in this figure.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “National Public Education Financial Survey,” fiscal years 2012 through 2020, Final Version 2a; and fiscal year 2021, Provisional Version 1a; and Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 106.75. Retrieved March 9, 2023, from nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_106.75.asp.


Without making adjustments for geographic cost differences, current expenditures per pupil ranged from $9,014 in Utah to $26,097 in New York. In addition to New York, current expenditures per pupil were highest in the District of Columbia ($25,113), Vermont ($24,050), New Jersey ($22,784), and Connecticut ($22,216). In addition to Utah, current expenditures per pupil were lowest in Idaho ($9,054), Arizona ($9,571), Mississippi ($10,060), and Nevada ($10,073). The states with the largest increases in current expenditures per pupil from FY 20 to FY 21 were Maine (11.9 percent), Arizona (7.6 percent), Montana (7.4 percent), Louisiana (7.3 percent), and Massachusetts (6.6 percent).


Image of NPEFS data visualization site showing current expenditures per pupil for public elementary and secondary schools in FY 20 and FY 21


In FY 21, salaries and wages ($389.2 billion) in conjunction with employee benefits ($169.7 billion) accounted for 79.4 percent ($558.8 billion) of current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education. Expenditures for instruction and instructional staff support services comprised 65.8 percent ($462.9 billion) of total current expenditures.

Between FY 20 and FY 21, total expenditures increased by 0.2 percent (from $812.3 to $813.6 billion). Of the $813.6 billion in total expenditures in FY 21, 86.5 percent were current expenditures, 9.8 percent were capital outlay expenditures, 2.7 percent were interest on debt, and 1.1 percent were expenditures for other programs.

Current expenditures from federal Title I grants for economically disadvantaged students (including carryover expenditures) accounted for $16.3 billion, or 2.3 percent of current expenditures for public elementary and secondary education at the national level in FY 21. Nationally, Title I expenditures per pupil averaged $331 and ranged from $123 in Utah to $874 in New York.

Current expenditures paid from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds for public elementary and secondary education totaled $24.2 billion for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of these, instructional expenditures accounted for $13.7 billion, or 56.5 percent of current expenditures paid from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds, and support services expenditures accounted for $9.1 billion, or 37.6 percent of current expenditures paid from COVID-19 Federal Assistance Funds.

To explore data on public elementary and secondary revenues, expenditures, and ADA, check out our new data visualization tool.

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By Stephen Q. Cornman, NCES, and Malia Howell and Jeremy Phillips, U.S. Census Bureau

 


[1] Spending refers to current expenditures. Current expenditures are composed of expenditures for the day-to-day operation of schools and school districts for public elementary and secondary education, including expenditures for staff salaries and benefits, supplies, and purchased services. Current expenditures include instruction, instruction-related, support services (e.g., social work, health, and psychological services), and other elementary/secondary current expenditures but exclude expenditures on capital outlay, other programs, and interest on long-term debt.

[2] Throughout this blog post, all comparisons between years are adjusted for inflation by converting the figures to constant dollars. Inflation adjustments utilize the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. For comparability to fiscal education data, NCES adjusts the CPI from a calendar year to a school fiscal year basis (July through June). See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 106.70.

[3] Per pupil expenditures are calculated using student membership derived from the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. In some states, adjustments are made to ensure consistency between membership and reported fiscal data. More information on these adjustments can be found in the data file documentation.