NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

New Data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study

Seventy-two percent of all undergraduate students received some type of financial aid, including loans, in the 2015–16 academic year. For those who received aid, the average was about $12,300 per student. If you want to explore more statistics on student financial aid, you can! NCES has released new data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). Data users have the ability to generate estimates and perform their own analyses using our online data analysis tools available in DataLab. Users can select the tool that best meets their needs, including PowerStats, QuickStats, and TrendStats.

NPSAS is the most comprehensive nationally representative study of how students and their families finance postsecondary education in the United States. The NPSAS:16 sample consisted of approximately 113,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending 1,800 postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to information on financial aid, the study collects data on many other topics, such as student demographics, total and net prices of attendance, education-related debt, major field of study, employment while enrolled, and participation in remedial education.

To enhance the data and address emerging policy issues, NCES has also included new and expanded items on these topics in NPSAS:16:

  • Financial literacy, including questions to measure understanding of key financial concepts such as inflation, interest rates, and investment, plus questions on the possible consequences for failing to repay federal student loans;
  • Alternative repayment options for federal loans, including awareness of and plans to use income-driven repayment and public service loan forgiveness;
  • Student veterans and military students, including an oversample of student veterans, measures of federal veterans’ education benefits derived from administrative sources, indicators of whether institutions offer programs targeted to veterans and military students, and new measures of state and institution aid specifically for student veterans; and
  • Study abroad, including the location and duration of time spent abroad.

A First Look report, which was released in January, highlighted key findings from the study. For more information on how the study was planned and conducted, including extensive details on sampling, data collection, response rates, weighting, and other topics, we encourage you to see the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16) Data File Documentation report.

By Tracy Hunt-White

The experiences of our nation’s young children from kindergarten through fourth grade

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan

In 2014–15, boys had higher fourth-grade math scores than girls, but no significant differences were found in boys’ versus girls’ fourth-grade reading knowledge and skills. These findings come from the most recent data release for the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). A recently released report provides a first look at the status of students who were in kindergarten for the first time during the 2010-11 school year and were in fourth grade in 2014-15. The longitudinal nature of this study allows for a comparison of trends over time. For example, differences in math scores between boys and girls were also observed in third grade but not in earlier grades. No significant differences in reading results for boys and girls have been detected in any grade between kindergarten and fourth. More data on assessment scores, as well as the demographic and family characteristics of the cohort of students who were first-time kindergartners in 2010-11, are available in the reports.

The series of Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies are consistently some of the most popular NCES studies due in large part to the fact that they provide comprehensive and reliable data on important topics such as child development, school readiness, and early school experiences. The ECLS-K:2011 was designed to provide data that can be used to describe and to better understand children’s development and experiences in the elementary grades, and how children’s early experiences relate to their later development, learning, and experiences in school. The study is longitudinal, meaning that it followed the same group of children over time; in the case of the ECLS-K:2011, children were followed from their kindergarten year (the 2010-11 school year) until the spring of 2016, when most of the children were in the fifth grade.

All planned waves of data through fifth grade have been collected and staff at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) are hard at work releasing reports of the findings as well as the data from all rounds of the study. Researchers, educators, policy makers, and other interested members of the public now have access to much of the important data from the ECLS-K:2011, with additional reports and data releases on their way.

The diverse sample of children who participated in the ECLS-K:2011 is nationally representative of students who were in kindergarten in U.S. schools in the 2010-11 school year. Information on children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development was collected every year using direct child assessments and surveys for the adults central to the children’s education. Adults surveyed for the study included the children’s parents/guardians, their teachers, their school administrators, and their kindergarten before- and after-school care providers. Topics covered by the surveys included the children’s home environment, home educational activities, school environment, classroom environment, classroom curriculum, teacher qualifications, and before- and after-school care. 

Public-use data from the kindergarten through fourth-grade rounds of the ECLS-K:2011 are now available online. A restricted-use dataset with data from the kindergarten through fourth-grade rounds is also available to qualified researchers with an IES Restricted-use Data License. For information on licensing, please see https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp. The schedule of future data releases is available on the ECLS website.

For more information on the ECLS-K:2011 as well as the other ECLS studies, please see our homepage or email the ECLS study team at ECLS@ed.gov.  

NCES Fast Facts Deliver Data to Your Door

By Molly Fenster, American Institutes for Research

Have you ever wondered how many public high school students graduate on time? Or wanted to know the types of safety and security measures schools use, or the latest trends in the cost of a college education? If so, the NCES Fast Facts website has the answers for you!

Launched on March 1, 1999, the Fast Facts site originally included 45 responses to the questions most frequently asked by callers to the NCES Help Line. Today, the more than 70 Fast Facts answer questions of interest to education stakeholders–such as a teacher, school administrator, or researcher–as well as college students, parents, and community members with a specific interest or data need. The facts feature text, tables, figures, and links from various published sources, primarily the Digest of Education Statistics and The Condition of Education, and they are updated periodically with new data from recently released publications and products. 

For example, the screenshot below shows one of the most accessed Fast Facts on high school dropout rates:

Access the site for the full Fast Fact, as well as links to “Related Tables and Figures” and “Other Resources” on high school dropout rates.

The other facts on the site feature a diverse range of topics from child care, homeschooling, students with disabilities, teachers, and enrollment, to graduation rates, educational attainment, international education, finances, and more. The site is organized to provide concise, current information in the following areas:

  • Assessments;
  • Early Childhood;
  • Elementary and Secondary;
  • Library;
  • Postsecondary and Beyond; and
  • Resources.

Five recently released Fast Facts on ACT scores; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; public school students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch; postsecondary student debt; and Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer the latest data on these policy-relevant and interesting education topics.

Join our growing base of users and visit the Fast Facts site today!

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 in 2017.

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, was released in March of 2018. Public-use data files from previous SSOCS administrations are also 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/