IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Timing is Everything: Understanding the IPEDS Data Collection and Release Cycle

For more than 3 decades, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has collected data from all postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV federal student aid programs, including universities, community colleges, and vocational and technical schools.

Since 2000, the 12 IPEDS survey components occurring in a given collection year have been organized into three seasonal collection periods: Fall, Winter, and Spring.

The timing of when data are collected (the “collection year”) is most important for the professionals who report their data to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). However, IPEDS data users are generally more interested in the year that is actually reflected in the data (the “data year”). As an example, a data user may ask, “What was happening with students, staff, and institutions in 2018–19?


Text box that says: The collection year refers to the time period the IPEDS survey data are collected. The data year refers to the time period reflected in the IPEDS survey data.


For data users, knowing the difference between the collection year and the data year is important for working with and understanding IPEDS data. Often, the collection year comes after the data year, as institutions need time to collect the required data and check to make sure they are reporting the data accurately. This lag between the time period reflected by the data and when the data are reported is typically one academic term or year, depending on the survey component. For example, fall 2021 enrollment data are not reported to NCES until spring 2022, and the data would not be publicly released until fall 2022.

After the data are collected by NCES, there is an additional time period before they are released publicly in which the data undergo various quality and validity checks. About 9 months after each seasonal collection period ends (i.e., Fall, Winter, Spring), there is a Provisional Data Release and IPEDS data products (e.g., web tools, data files) are updated with the newly released seasonal data. During this provisional release, institutions may revise their data if they believe it was inaccurately reported. A Revised/Final Data Release then happens the following year and includes any revisions that were made to the provisional data.

Sound confusing? The data collection and release cycle can be a technical and complex process, and it varies slightly for each of the 12 IPEDS survey components. Luckily, NCES has created a comprehensive resource page that provides information about the IPEDS data collection and release cycles for each survey component as well as key details for data users and data reporters, such as how to account for summer enrollment in the different IPEDS survey components.

Table 1 provides a summary of the IPEDS 2021–22 data collection and release schedule information that can be found on the resource page. Information on the data year and other details about each survey component can also be found on the resource page.


Table 1. IPEDS 2021–22 Data Collection and Release Schedule

Table showing the IPEDS 2021–22 data collection and release schedule


Here are a few examples of how to distinguish the data year from the collection year in different IPEDS data products.

Example 1: IPEDS Trend Generator

Suppose that a data user is interested in how national graduation rates have changed over time. One tool they might use is the IPEDS Trend Generator. The Trend Generator is a ready-made web tool that allows users to view trends over time on the most frequently asked subject areas in postsecondary education. The Graduation Rate chart below displays data year (shown in green) in the headline and on the x-axis. The “Modify Years” option also allows users to filter by data year. Information about the collection year (shown in gold) can be found in the source notes below the chart.


Image of IPEDS Trend Generator webpage


Example 2: IPEDS Complete Data Files

Imagine that a data user was interested enough in 6-year Graduation Rates that they wanted to run more complex analyses in a statistical program. IPEDS Complete Data Files include all variables for all reporting institutions by survey component and can be downloaded by these users to create their own analytic datasets.

Data users should keep in mind that IPEDS Complete Data Files are organized and released by collection year (shown in gold) rather than data year. Because of this, even though files might share the same collection year, the data years reflected within the files will vary across survey components.


Image of IPEDS Complete Data Files webpage


The examples listed above are just a few of many scenarios in which this distinction between collection year and data year is important for analysis and understanding. Knowing about the IPEDS reporting cycle can be extremely useful when it comes to figuring out how to work with IPEDS data. For more examples and additional details on the IPEDS data collection and release cycles for each survey component, please visit the Timing of IPEDS Data Collection, Coverage, and Release Cycle resource page.

Be sure to follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, follow IPEDS on Twitter, and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay up-to-date on all IPEDS data releases.

 

By Katie Hyland and Roman Ruiz, American Institutes for Research

Accessing the Common Core of Data (CCD)

Every year, NCES releases nonfiscal data files from the Common Core of Data (CCD), the Department of Education’s (ED’s) primary longitudinal database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States. CCD data releases include directory data (location, status, and grades offered), student membership data (by grade, gender, and race/ethnicity), data on full-time equivalent staff and teachers, and data on the number of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

This blog post, one in a series of posts about CCD data, focuses on how to access and use the data. For information on using NSLP data, read the blog post Understanding School Lunch Eligibility in the Common Core of Data

CCD Data Use

CCD data are used both internally by ED and externally by the public. For example, within ED, CCD data serve as the sample frame for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and are the mainstay of many tables in the Digest of Education Statistics and The Condition of Education. Outside of ED, CCD data are used by researchers, the general public (e.g., realtor sites, The Common Application, Great Schools), and teachers who need their school’s NCES school ID to apply for grants.

Data Structure and Availability

CCD data are available at the state, district, and school levels, using a nested structure: all schools are within a parent district and all districts are within a state. CCD does not include any student- or staff-level data.

Most CCD data elements are available for school year (SY) 1986‒87 to the present.    

Unique Identifiers Within CCD

NCES uses a three-part ID system for public schools and districts: state-based Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) codes, district codes, and school codes. Using these three parts, several IDs can be generated:

  • District IDs: 7-digit (FIPS + 5-digit District)
  • School IDs:
    • 12-digit (FIPS + District + School)
    • 7-digit (FIPS + School) (unique from SY 2016‒17 on)

NCES IDs are assigned to districts and schools indefinitely, making them useful for analyzing data over time. For example, for a longitudinal school-level analysis, a school’s 7-digit ID should be used, as it remains the same even if the school changes districts. These IDs can also be used to link CCD district and school data to other ED databases.

Accessing CCD Data

There are three ways to access CCD data: the CCD District and School Locators, the Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi), and the raw data files. Each approach has different benefits and limitations.

  • CCD District and School locators
    • Quick and easy to use
    • Many ways to search for districts and schools (e.g., district/school name, street address, county, state)
    • Provides the latest year of CCD data available for the selected district(s) or school(s)
    • Tips for optimal use:
      • If you are having difficulty finding a district or school, only enter a key word for the name (e.g., for PS 100 Glen Morris in New York City, only enter “Glen Morris” or “PS 100”)
      • Export search results to Excel (including all CCD locator fields)

  • Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi)
    • quickFacts and expressTables: view most-requested CCD data elements at multiple levels
    • tableGenerator: combine data across topic areas and years to create a single file
    • Create “tables” that act like databases and include all of the roughly 100,000 public schools or 20,000 districts
    • Export data to Excel or CSV
    • Tips for optimal use:
      • Save and edit queries using the navigation buttons at the top of the screen
      • popularTables provide links to frequently requested data

 

Interested in learning more about CCD or accessing CCD data at the state, district, or school level? Check out the CCD website and use the District and School locators, ElSi, or the raw data files to find the data you are looking for.

 

By Patrick Keaton, NCES

Building Bridges: Increasing the Power of the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) Through Data Linking With an ID Crosswalk

On October 15, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the 2017–18 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The CRDC is a biennial survey that has been conducted by ED to collect data on key education and civil rights issues in our nation’s public schools since 1968. The CRDC provides data on student enrollment and educational programs and services, most of which are disaggregated by students’ race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency designation, and disability status. The CRDC is an important aspect of the overall strategy of ED’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to administer and enforce civil rights statutes that apply to U.S. public schools. The information collected through the CRDC is also used by other ED offices as well as by policymakers and researchers outside of ED.  

As a standalone data collection, the CRDC provides a wealth of information. However, the analytic power and scope of the CRDC can be enhanced by linking it to other ED and government data collections, including the following:

A Crosswalk to Link CRDC Data to Other Data Collections

To facilitate joining CRDC data to these and other data collections, NCES developed an ID crosswalk. This crosswalk is necessary because there are instances when the CRDC school ID number (referred to as a combo key) does not match the NCES school ID number assigned in other data collections (see the “Mismatches Between ID Numbers” section below for reasons why this may occur). By linking the CRDC to other data collections, researchers can answer questions that CRDC data alone cannot, such as the following:



Mismatches Between ID Numbers

Mismatches between CRDC combo key numbers and NCES ID numbers may occur because of differences in how schools and districts are reported in the CRDC and other collections and because of differences in the timing of collections. Below are some examples.

  • Differences in how schools and school districts are reported in the CRDC and other data collections:
    • New York City Public Schools is reported as a single district in the CRDC but as multiple districts (with one supervisory union and 33 components of the supervisory union) in other data collections. Thus, the district will have one combo key in the CRDC but multiple ID numbers in other data collections.
    • Sometimes charter schools are reported differently in the CRDC compared with other data collections. For example, some charter schools in California are reported as independent (with each school serving as its own school district) in the CRDC but as a single combined school district in other data collections. Thus, each school will have its own combo key in the CRDC, but there will be one ID number for the combined district in other data collections.
    • There are differences between how a state or school district defines a school compared with how other data collections define a school.
  • Differences in the timing of the CRDC and other data collections:
    • There is a lag between when the CRDC survey universe is planned and when the data collection begins. During this time, a new school may open. Since the school has not yet been assigned an ID number, it is reported in the CRDC as a new school.


Interested in using the ID crosswalk to link CRDC data with other data collections and explore a research question of your own? Visit https://www.air.org/project/research-evaluation-support-civil-rights-data-collection-crdc to learn more and access the crosswalk. For more information about the CRDC, visit https://ocrdata.ed.gov/.

 

By Jennifer Sable, AIR, and Stephanie R. Miller, NCES

From Data Collection to Data Release: What Happens?

In today’s world, much scientific data is collected automatically from sensors and processed by computers in real time to produce instant analytic results. People grow accustomed to instant data and expect to get things quickly.

At the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), we are frequently asked why, in a world of instant data, it takes so long to produce and publish data from surveys. Although improvements in the timeliness of federal data releases have been made, there are fundamental differences in the nature of data compiled by automated systems and specific data requested from federal survey respondents. Federal statistical surveys are designed to capture policy-related and research data from a range of targeted respondents across the country, who may not always be willing participants.

This blog is designed to provide a brief overview of the survey data processing framework, but it’s important to understand that the survey design phase is, in itself, a highly complex and technical process. In contrast to a management information system, in which an organization has complete control over data production processes, federal education surveys are designed to represent the entire country and require coordination with other federal, state, and local agencies. After the necessary coordination activities have been concluded, and the response periods for surveys have ended, much work remains to be done before the survey data can be released.

Survey Response

One of the first sources of potential delays is that some jurisdictions or individuals are unable to fill in their surveys on time. Unlike opinion polls and online quizzes, which use anyone who feels like responding to the survey (convenience samples), NCES surveys use rigorously formulated samples meant to properly represent specific populations, such as states or the nation as a whole. In order to ensure proper representation within the sample, NCES follows up with nonresponding sampled individuals, education institutions, school districts, and states to ensure the maximum possible survey participation within the sample. Some large jurisdictions, such as the New York City school district, also have their own extensive survey operations to conclude before they can provide information to NCES. Before the New York City school district, which is larger than about two-thirds of all state education systems, can respond to NCES surveys, it must first gather information from all its schools. Receipt of data from New York City and other large districts is essential to compiling nationally representative data.

Editing and Quality Reviews

Waiting for final survey responses does not mean that survey processing comes to a halt. One of the most important roles NCES plays in survey operations is editing and conducting quality reviews of incoming data, which take place on an ongoing basis. In these quality reviews, a variety of strategies are used to make cost-effective and time-sensitive edits to the incoming data. For example, in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), individual higher education institutions upload their survey responses and receive real-time feedback on responses that are out of range compared to prior submissions or instances where survey responses do not align in a logical way. All NCES surveys use similar logic checks in addition to a range of other editing checks that are appropriate to the specific survey. These checks typically look for responses that are out of range for a certain type of respondent.

Although most checks are automated, some particularly complicated or large responses may require individual review. For IPEDS, the real-time feedback described above is followed by quality review checks that are done after collection of the full dataset. This can result in individualized follow up and review with institutions whose data still raise substantive questions. 

Sample Weighting

In order to lessen the burden on the public and reduce costs, NCES collects data from selected samples of the population rather than taking a full census of the entire population for every study. In all sample surveys, a range of additional analytic tasks must be completed before data can be released. One of the more complicated tasks is constructing weights based on the original sample design and survey responses so that the collected data can properly represent the nation and/or states, depending on the survey. These sample weights are designed so that analyses can be conducted across a range of demographic or geographic characteristics and properly reflect the experiences of individuals with those characteristics in the population.

If the survey response rate is too low, a “survey bias analysis” must be completed to ensure that the results will be sufficiently reliable for public use. For longitudinal surveys, such as the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, multiple sets of weights must be constructed so that researchers using the data will be able to appropriately account for respondents who answered some but not all of the survey waves.

NCES surveys also include “constructed variables” to facilitate more convenient and systematic use of the survey data. Examples of constructed variables include socioeconomic status or family type. Other types of survey data also require special analytic considerations before they can be released. Student assessment data, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), require that a number of highly complex processes be completed to ensure proper estimations for the various populations being represented in the results. For example, just the standardized scoring of multiple choice and open-ended items can take thousands of hours of design and analysis work.

Privacy Protection

Release of data by NCES carries a legal requirement to protect the privacy of our nation’s children. Each NCES public-use dataset undergoes a thorough evaluation to ensure that it cannot be used to identify responses of individuals, whether they are students, parents, teachers, or principals. The datasets must be protected through item suppression, statistical swapping, or other techniques to ensure that multiple datasets cannot be combined in such a way as to identify any individual. This is a time-consuming process, but it is incredibly important to protect the privacy of respondents.

Data and Report Release

When the final data have been received and edited, the necessary variables have been constructed, and the privacy protections have been implemented, there is still more that must be done to release the data. The data must be put in appropriate formats with the necessary documentation for data users. NCES reports with basic analyses or tabulations of the data must be prepared. These products are independently reviewed within the NCES Chief Statistician’s office.

Depending on the nature of the report, the Institute of Education Sciences Standards and Review Office may conduct an additional review. After all internal reviews have been conducted, revisions have been made, and the final survey products have been approved, the U.S. Secretary of Education’s office is notified 2 weeks in advance of the pending release. During this notification period, appropriate press release materials and social media announcements are finalized.

Although NCES can expedite some product releases, the work of preparing survey data for release often takes a year or more. NCES strives to maintain a balance between timeliness and providing the reliable high-quality information that is expected of a federal statistical agency while also protecting the privacy of our respondents.  

 

By Thomas Snyder

Data Tools for College Professors and Students

Ever wonder what parts of the country produce the most English majors? Want to know which school districts have the most guidance counselors? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has all the tools you need to dig into these and lots of other data!

Whether you’re a student embarking on a research project or a college professor looking for a large data set to use for an assignment, NCES has you covered. Below, check out the tools you can use to conduct searches, download datasets, and generate your own statistical tables and analyses.

 

Conduct Publication Searches

Two search tools help researchers identify potential data sources for their study and explore prior research conducted with NCES data. The Publications & Products Search Tool can be used to search for NCES publications and data products. The Bibliography Search Tool, which is updated continually, allows users to search for individual citations from journal articles that have been published using data from most surveys conducted by NCES.

Key reference publications include the Digest of Education Statistics, which is a comprehensive library of statistical tabulations, and The Condition of Education, which highlights up-to-date trends in education through statistical indicators.

 

Learn with Instructional Modules

The Distance Learning Dataset Training System (DLDT) is an interactive online tool that allows users to learn about NCES data across the education spectrum. DLDT’s computer-based training introduces users to many NCES datasets, explains their designs, and offers technical considerations to facilitate successful analyses. Please see the NCES blog Learning to Use the Data: Online Dataset Training Modules for more details about the DLDT tool.
 




Download and Access Raw Data Files

Users have several options for conducting statistical analyses and producing data tables. Many NCES surveys release public-use raw data files that professors and students can download and analyze using statistical software packages like SAS, STATA, and SPSS. Some data files and syntax files can also be downloaded using NCES data tools:

  • Education Data Analysis Tool (EDAT) and the Online Codebook allow users to download several survey datasets in various statistical software formats. Users can subset a dataset by selecting a survey, a population, and variables relevant to their analysis.
  • Many data files can be accessed directly from the Surveys & Programs page by clicking on the specific survey and then clicking on the “Data Products” link on the survey website.

 

Generate Analyses and Tables

NCES provides several online analysis tools that do not require a statistical software package:

  • DataLab is a tool for making tables and regressions that features more than 30 federal education datasets. It includes three powerful analytic tools:
    • QuickStats—for creating simple tables and charts.
    • PowerStats—for creating complex tables and logistic and linear regressions.
    • TrendStats—for creating complex tables spanning multiple data collection years. This tool also contains the Tables Library, which houses more than 5,000 published analysis tables by topic, publication, and source.



  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer can be used to generate tables, charts, and maps of detailed results from national and state assessments. Users can identify the subject area, grade level, and years of interest and then select variables from the student, teacher, and school questionnaires for analysis.
  • International Data Explorer (IDE) is an interactive tool with data from international assessments and surveys, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The IDE can be used to explore student and adult performance on assessments, create a variety of data visualizations, and run statistical tests and regression analyses.
  • Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi) allows users to quickly view public and private school data and create custom tables and charts using data from the Common Core of Data (CCD) and Private School Universe Survey (PSS).
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Use the Data provides researcher-focused access to IPEDS data and tools that contain comprehensive data on postsecondary institutions. Users can view video tutorials or use data through one of the many functions within the portal, including the following:
    • Data Trends—Provides trends over time for high-interest topics, including enrollment, graduation rates, and financial aid.
    • Look Up an Institution—Allows for quick access to an institution’s comprehensive profile. Shows data similar to College Navigator but contains additional IPEDS metrics.
    • Statistical Tables—Equips power users to quickly get data and statistics for specific measures, such as average graduation rates by state.