IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Data on New Topics in the School Survey on Crime and Safety Shed Light on Emerging Areas of Interest

By Rachel Hansen, NCES; and Melissa Diliberti and Jana Kemp, AIR

For more than 15 years, the National Center for Education Statistics has administered the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) to provide timely, high-quality data on crime and safety in U.S. public schools. Information collected on SSOCS includes the frequency and nature of crime; disciplinary actions; crime prevention and the involvement of law enforcement; and challenges to reducing and preventing crime. Conducted with a nationally representative sample of public schools, the sixth, and most recent, administration of SSOCS took place during the 2015–16 school year. The first report highlighting key findings from that survey was released earlier this year.

For the 2015–16 survey, we included new and expanded questions on several topics to address emerging policy issues and to identify common practices in school safety, including:

  • School law enforcement, including questions on how schools involve sworn law enforcement officers in daily activities and whether schools outline the responsibilities of these officers at school. For instance, one new item asks whether law enforcement officers routinely wear a body camera, while another item asks if the school has a formalized policy defining officers’ use of firearms while at school;
  • Preventative measures used in public schools, including new questions on more recent security practices. For example, one new item asks schools to report whether they have a threat assessment team to identity students who might be a potential risk for violent or harmful behavior;
  • Preparations for crisis situations, such as whether schools drill students on the use of evacuation, lockdown, and shelter-in-place procedures. Other new items ask whether schools have panic buttons that directly connect to law enforcement and whether they have classroom doors that can be locked from the inside;
  • Student involvement in crime prevention, such as whether schools use peer mediation, student court, restorative circles, or social emotional learning training for students as part of a formal program intended to prevent or reduce violence; and
  • Staff training in discipline policies and practices, including those related to bullying and cyberbullying or strategies for students displaying signs of mental health disorders.

While previous administrations of SSOCS have asked schools to report the number of hate crimes that occurred during a given school year, the 2015–16 questionnaire asked schools to also report the bias (e.g., national origin or ethnicity, gender identity, etc.) that may have motivated these hate crimes. For the first time, the SSOCS questionnaire also asked schools to report the number of arrests that occurred at school.

In addition to these new and expanded questions, SSOCS continues to collect detailed information on schools’ safety practices, the number and type of crime incidents (e.g., sexual assault, physical attack or fight) that occur at school, and the extent to which schools involve law enforcement, parents, and other community groups in their efforts to reduce and prevent crime. To allow for trend comparisons, many items included on SSOCS questionnaires have remained consistent between survey administrations.

Due to the sensitive nature of SSOCS data, researchers must apply for a restricted-use license to access the SSOCS:2016 restricted-use data file. A public-use data file, with some variables removed, will be released in 2018. Public-use data files from previous SSOCS administrations are available on the SSOCS website and in DataLab

 

Data Visualization: Helping Education Agencies Communicate Data Meaning to Stakeholders

By the National Forum on Education Statistics’ Data Visualization Working Group

Every day, 2.5 quintillion—that’s 17 more zeroes—bytes of data are uploaded to the Internet (IBM 2016).[i] How can people be expected to discern meaning when the volume of available data continues to grow at such a pace?  The short answer is that they can’t—someone needs to highlight the most relevant “take-home” message in the data or no one will see it, understand it, or use it to make decisions. 

Anyone who works in the field of education knows this reality. Federal, state, and local agency staff often struggle to effectively present data to stakeholders in an accessible, accurate, and actionable manner. Although data visualization websites and textbooks are readily available, they are often written for specialists in information architecture or graphic designers. Fortunately, the National Forum on Education Statistics (Forum) has produced the new Forum Guide to Data Visualization: A Resource for Education Agencies, which is customized to meet the specific visualization needs of the education data and research communities. The intended audience is professionals who interpret and communicate data meaning for a wide range of education stakeholders, including practitioners, policymakers, researchers, parents, and the general public.



Building off of expertise in the field of data visualization, the guide presents a host of practices that support four overarching “take-home” principles for data visualization:

  1. Show the data;
  2. Reduce the clutter;
  3. Integrate text and images; and
  4. Portray data meaning accurately and ethically.

Other practical recommendations include:

  • Capitalize on consistency—establish and adhere to common conventions;
  • Avoid presenting figures side by side if the data are not intended to be compared;
  • Consider your design choices beyond default graphing programs;
  • Focus on the take-home message for the target audience;
  • Minimize the use of jargon, acronyms, and technical terms;
  • Choose a font that is easy to read and will reproduce well; and
  • Recognize the importance of color and the benefits of Section 508 Compliance.

Because communicating data effectively is a priority in education agencies, the document also explains how the data visualization process can be implemented throughout an organization. In this way, effective visual communication might become the norm rather than exception in our agencies.  Visit the Forum’s website for more information about this guide, the Forum, and other free resources for the education data community.


About the National Forum on Education Statistics

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System. The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform education information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics.

The information and opinions published in Forum products do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the U.S. Department of Education, IES, or NCES. For more information about the Forum, please contact Ghedam Bairu


[i] IBM (2016): What is Big Data? Bringing Big Data to the Enterprise. Retrieved November 2016 from https://www-01.ibm.com/software/au/data/bigdata/

A New Guide to Education Data Privacy

By The National Forum on Education Statistics Education Data Privacy Working Group

The expanding use of data and new technologies for classroom instruction hold promise for facilitating learning and better personalizing education for students. However, these changes also heighten the responsibility of schools and education agencies to protect student privacy. The recently released Forum Guide to Education Data Privacy offers recommendations on how to do this.

 Privacy is one of the most important issues in education data policy today. Many states have passed laws that require education agencies to implement strong privacy programs and procedures. State and local education agencies (SEAs and LEAs) are responding to the growing demands for privacy protection, as well as expectations for transparency in how student data are collected, used, and protected. Local and state members of the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) identified a particular need for a resource that would assist SEAs and LEAs in working with school staff to ensure that student data are properly protected. The Forum established an Education Data Privacy Working Group tasked with developing a resource to help education agencies support school staff in responsibly using and sharing student data for instructional and administrative purposes, as well as strengthen agency privacy programs and related professional development efforts. The Forum Guide to Education Data Privacy was released in early July.

Chapter 1 of the guide includes information on

  • federal and state privacy laws;
  • the interrelationships among data governance, data security, and data privacy;
  • roles and responsibilities for protecting privacy at various agency levels; and
  • effective professional development on data privacy and security.

Chapter 2 includes 11 case studies designed to highlight common privacy issues related to the use of student data and presents basic approaches to managing those issues. Topics include

  • using online apps in the classroom;
  • responding to parent and PTA requests for student contact information;
  • using and sharing student data within a school;
  • sharing data among community schools and community-based organizations;
  • using data in presentations and training materials; and
  • using social media.

Each case study includes a scenario that exemplifies the privacy risk, and offers various approaches and action steps that agencies can take to minimize the risk. The information presented in the case studies is based largely on the collective experience of members of the Forum.

The working group collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) in the development of the guide. Links to free, helpful PTAC resources are highlighted throughout. 

It is important for education agencies to understand that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to protecting privacy. Each agency needs to consider relevant state and federal laws, state and local school board policies, parental expectations, student instructional needs, and the agency’s available resources when developing privacy guidelines and procedures. It is our hope that the Forum Guide to Education Data Privacy will help agencies develop privacy programs and procedures that fit their particular circumstances.    

 

About the National Forum on Education Statistics

The work of the National Forum on Education Statistics is a key aspect of the National Cooperative Education Statistics System. The Cooperative System was established to produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the states, comparable and uniform education information and data that are useful for policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, established the Forum to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. The Forum addresses issues in education data policy, sponsors innovations in data collection and reporting, and provides technical assistance to improve state and local data systems.

Members of the Forum establish working groups to develop best practice guides in data-related areas of interest to federal, state, and local education agencies. They are assisted in this work by NCES, but the content comes from the collective experience of working group members who review all products iteratively throughout the development process. After the working group completes the content and reviews a document a final time, publications are subject to examination by members of the Forum standing committee that sponsors the project. Finally, Forum members (approximately 120 people) review and formally vote to approve all documents prior to publication. NCES provides final review and approval prior to online publication.

The information and opinions published in Forum products do not necessarily represent the policies or views of the U.S. Department of Education, IES, or NCES. For more information about the Forum, please visit nces.ed.gov/forum or contact Ghedam Bairu at Ghedam.bairu@ed.gov.

Learning to Use the Data: Online Dataset Training Modules

UPDATED JANUARY 16, 2018: New and Updated Modules Added

By Andy White

NCES provides a wealth of data online for users to access. However, the breadth and depth of the data can be overwhelming to first time users, and, sometimes, even for more experienced users. In order to help our users learn how to access, navigate, and use NCES datasets, we’ve developed a series of online training modules.

The Distance Learning Dataset Training  (DLDT) resource is an online, interactive tool that allows users to learn about NCES data across the education spectrum and evaluate it for suitability for specific  research purposes. The DLDT program at NCES has developed a growing number of online training modules for several NCES complex sample survey and administrative datasets.  The modules teach users about the intricacies of various datasets, including what the data represent, how the data are collected, the sample design, and considerations for analysis to help users in conducting successful analyses. 

The DLDT is also a teaching tool that can be used by individuals both in and out of the classroom to learn about NCES complex sample survey and administrative data collections and appropriate analysis methods.

There are two types of NCES DLDT modules available: common modules and dataset-specific modules. The common modules help users broadly understand NCES data across the education spectrum, introduce complex survey methods, and explain how to acquire NCES micro-data. The dataset-specific modules introduce and educate users about particular datasets. The available modules are listed below and more information can be found on the DLDT website

 

AVAILABLE DLDT MODULES

Common Modules

  • Introduction to the NCES Distance Learning Dataset Training System
  • Introduction to the NCES Datasets
  • Introduction to NCES Web Gateways: Accessing and Exploring NCES Data
  • Analyzing NCES Complex Survey Data
  • Statistical Analysis of NCES Datasets Employing a Complex Sample Design
  • Acquiring Micro-level NCES Data
  • DataLab Tools: QuickStats, PowerStats, and TrendStats

Dataset-Specific Modules

  • Common Core of Data (CCD)
  • Introduction to MapED
  • Fast Response Survey System (FRSS)
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K)
  • Early Secondary Longitudinal Studies (1972 – 2000)
    • National Longitudinal Study of 1972 (NLS-72)
    • High School and Beyond (HS&B)
    • National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88)
  • Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002)
  • High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09)
  • Introduction to High School Transcript Studies
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
    • Main, State, and Long-Term Trend NAEP
    • NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS)
    • National Indian Education Study (NIES)
  • National Household Education Survey Program (NHES)
  • Postsecondary Education Sample Survey Datasets
    • National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS)
    • Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Study (BPS)
    • Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B)
  • Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS)
  • Private School Universe Survey (PSS)
  • Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)
    • Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS)
    • Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS)
    • Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS)
  • School Survey On Crime and Safety (SSOCS)
  • International Activities Program Studies Datasets
    • Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
    • Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)
    • Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)
    • Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)