IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

NCES Centralizes State-Level Data in New Digest State Dashboard

With hundreds of tables to explore, the Digest of Education Statistics offers a wide array of education data. For the first time, NCES is visualizing Digest data in a new Digest State Dashboard. The Dashboard provides a centralized location for state-level Digest data, so users can easily find it all in one place. As the first-ever Digest data tool, the Dashboard helps you not only find and use NCES data but also better understand the education landscape of an individual state.

In alignment with NCES’s goal to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our products, the Dashboard provides data for all entities that are part of the United States: the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education, and outlying areas—i.e., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Digest Dashboard Topics

  • Public school enrollment
  • Public school student characteristics
  • Public school teachers
  • Public schools
  • Private school education
  • Reading and mathematics assessments
  • 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR)
  • Public school expenditures
  • Postsecondary enrollment
  • Postsecondary institution and student charges

For each of these entities, the Dashboard highlights the most recently published Digest data on topics of interest (see textbox). The selected topics represent key indicators of a state’s education landscape, and data are presented for each entity and topic whenever available.

To help make data interpretation easier, the Dashboard presents data in figures—like bar charts, line graphs, and brief tables—that allow you to interact with the data in ways not possible with the static tables. If you’ve ever explored the Condition of Education—which will be updated next month (May 2024)—the Dashboard’s figures should look very familiar, as they were designed to mirror the appearance and functionality of the Condition’s interactive figures. Similarly, in the Dashboard, you can

  1. modify the figure by selecting characteristics and years to include;
  2. share the figure on various platforms; and
  3. download the figure and the data used in the figure. 

The Dashboard also provides links to other NCES state-level data tools, centralizing these resources and providing a more detailed picture of each state’s educational landscape. You can find state-specific links to NAEP State Profiles, the NTPS State Dashboard, and the PIAAC Skills Map on each state’s page. Plus, you can find links to other NCES data tools, like the EDGE ACS Dashboard and the IPEDS Trend Generator, on the Dashboard’s homepage.

The Dashboard will be continuously updated throughout the year—as data become available in the Digest—making it a great source of up-to-date information for policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and parents/families. In May 2024, several figures will be updated, including two postsecondary figures on enrollment and institutions and student charges. Be sure to check back and follow NCES on XFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay informed when these and other updates are made. You can also continue to explore the Digest tables to find even more state-level data.

Using IPEDS Data: Available Tools and Considerations for Use

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) contains comprehensive data on postsecondary institutions. IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires institutions that participate in federal student aid programs to report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid.

These data are made available to the public in a variety of ways via the IPEDS Use the Data webpage. This blog post provides a description of available IPEDS data tools as well as considerations for determining the appropriate tool to use.


Available Data Tools

College Navigator

College Navigator is a free consumer information tool designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others access information about postsecondary institutions.

Note that this tool can be found on the Find Your College webpage (under "Search for College"), along with various other resources to help users plan for college.

IPEDS provides data tools for a variety of users that are organized into three general categories: (1) Search Existing Data, (2) Create Custom Data Analyses, and (3) Download IPEDS Data.

Search Existing Data

Users can search for aggregate tables, charts, publications, or other products related to postsecondary education using the Data Explorer or access IPEDS data via NCES publications like the Digest of Education Statistics or the Condition of Education.

Create Custom Data Analyses

Several data tools allow users to create their own custom analyses with frequently used and derived variables (Data Trends) or all available data collected within IPEDS (Statistical Tables). Users can also customize tables for select subgroups of institutions (Summary Tables). Each of these options allows users to generate analyses within the limitations of the tool itself.

For example, there are three report types available under the Data Feedback Report (DFR) tool. User can

  1. select data from the most recent collection year across frequently used and derived variables to create a Custom DFR;
     
  2. create a Statistical Analysis Report using the variables available for the Custom DFR; and
     
  3. access the NCES developed DFR for any institution.

Download IPEDS Data

Other data tools provide access to raw data through a direct download (Complete Data Files) or through user selections in the IPEDS Custom Data Files tool. In addition, IPEDS data can be downloaded for an entire collection year for all survey components via the Access Database.

IPEDS Data Tools Help

The IPEDS Data Tools User Manual is designed to help guide users through the various functions, processes, and abundant capabilities of IPEDS data tools. The manual contains a wealth of information, hints, tips, and insights for using the tools.

 

Data Tool Considerations

Users may consider several factors—related to both data selection and data extraction—when determining the right tool for a particular question or query.

Data Selection

  1. Quick access – Accessing data in a few steps may be helpful for users who want to find data quickly. Several data tools provide data quickly but may be limited in their selection options or customizable output.

  2. Data release – IPEDS data are released to the public in two phases: Provisional and Final. Provisional data have undergone quality control procedures and imputation for missing data but have not been updated based on changes within the Prior Year Revision System. Final data reflect changes made within the Prior Year Revision System and additional quality control procedures and will not change. Some tools allow users to access only final data. Table 1 summarizes how provisional and final data are used by various data tools. The IPEDS resource page “Timing of IPEDS Data Collection, Coverage, and Release Cycle” provides more information on data releases.


    Table 1. How provisional and final data are used in various data tools

  1. Select institutions – Users may want to select specific institutions for their analyses. Several tools allow users to limit the output for a selected list of institutions while others include all institutions in the output.
     
  2. Multiple years – While some tools provide a single year of data, many tools provide access to multiple years of data in a single output.
     
  3. Raw data – Some data tools provide access to the raw data as submitted to IPEDS. For example, Look Up an Institution allows users access to survey forms submitted by an institution.
     
  4. Institution-level data – Many data tools provide data at the institution level, since this is the unit of analysis within the IPEDS system.
     
  5. All data available – Many data tools provide access to frequently used and derived variables, but others provide access to the entirety of variables collected within the IPEDS system.

Data Extraction

  1. Save/upload institutions – Several data tools allow a user to create and download a list of institutions, which can be uploaded in a future session.

  2. Save/upload variables – Two data tools allow a user to save the variables selected and upload in a future session.
     
  3. Export data – Many data tools allow a user to download data into a spreadsheet, while others provide information within a PDF. Note that several tools have limitations on the number of variables that can be downloaded in a session (e.g., Compare Institutions has a limit of 250 variables).
     
  4. Produce visuals – Several data tools produce charts, graphs, or other visualizations. For example, Data Trends provides users with the opportunity to generate a bar or line chart and text table.


Below is a graphic that summarizes these considerations for each IPEDS data tool (click the image to enlarge it). 

 

To find training opportunities—including video tutorials, workshops, and keyholder courses—check out the IPEDS Training Center. Plus, access the IPEDS Distance Learning Dataset Training modules for more guidance on how to use IPEDS data. For additional questions, call the IPEDS Data Use Help Desk at (866) 558-0658 or e-mail ipedstools@rti.org.

 

By Tara B. Lawley, NCES, and Eric S. Atchison, Arkansas State University System and Association for Institutional Research IPEDS Educator

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/