National Center for Education Statistics

Get to Know NCES in Just Five Minutes!

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Have you ever read one of our reports and wondered where the data came from? Are you familiar with NAEP, but have never heard of IPEDS? Are you curious about the history of NCES? If so, our new video is perfect for you!

The full scope of NCES activities can be daunting for those not familiar with the Center. Our data collections include samples from early childhood to postsecondary education, and cover such diverse topics as math and reading achievement, the experiences of teachers and principals, and school crime. In addition, the Center has a rich history both within the Department of Education and as a federal statistical agency. To make our data, reports, and tools more accessible to the public, we’ve created a new video to help introduce you to who we are and what we do.

To learn more about the Center’s work, watch the video below and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Provide Input on Proposed Changes to Statistical Standards for Federal Collection of Race and Ethnicity Data

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Tom Snyder

Each Federal agency is responsible for collecting and disseminating different types of data on topics of interest and importance to the American public. In order to look across data sources to get a more complete picture of any one topic, it is important that those datasets are comparable.

Federal agencies that collect and report race and ethnicity data use the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity to promote uniformity and comparability.  The standards guide information collected and presented for the decennial census, household surveys, administrative forms (e.g., school registration and mortgage lending applications), and numerous other statistical collections, as well as for civil rights enforcement and program administrative reporting.

Periodically, these standards are reviewed. The Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity has been tasked with reviewing the standards on race and ethnicity. A March 1st Federal Register Notice and associated interim report by the Working Group communicates the current status of this work and requests public feedback on the following four areas:


  1. The use of separate questions versus a combined question to measure race and Hispanic origin, and question phrasing as a solution to race/ethnicity question nonresponse;
  2. The classification of a Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) group and distinct reporting category;
  3. The description of the intended use of minimum reporting categories (e.g., requiring or encouraging more detailed reporting within each minimum reporting category); and
  4. The terminology used for race and ethnicity classifications and other language in the standard.


Additional details on each of these four areas are available in the full notice, posted on the website. All members of the public are encouraged to provide feedback on these topics.  OMB will use all the public comments, along with recommendations from the Federal Interagency Working Group, to determine if any proposed revisions to the standards are warranted. According to established practice, OMB plans to notify the public of its final decision, along with its rationale.

Comments on the Federal Register Notice are due by April 30, 2017 and can be submitted electronically to or via the Federal E-Government website. Comments may also be sent by mail to U.S. Chief Statistician, Office of Management and Budget, 1800 G St., 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20503. All public feedback will be considered by the Federal Interagency Working Group as they write their final report, which will be used by OMB as they decide on any possible revisions to the standards.  

Additional information on how federal agenices use race and ethnicity data as well as more a more detailed description of the potential changes to the current standards are available in this webinar:

Measuring the Achievement and Experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native Youth: National Indian Education Study 2015

By Lauren Musu-Gillette and James Deaton

In order to measure the progress of education in the United States, it is important to examine equity and growth for students from many different demographic groups. The educational experiences of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth are of particular interest to educators and policymakers because of the prevalence of academic risk factors for this group. For example, the percentage of students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 2013-14 was highest for AI/AN students,[1] and in 2013 a higher percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native 8th-grade students than of Hispanic, White, or Asian 8th-grade students were absent more than 10 days in the last month.[2]  

Although NCES attempts to collect data from AI/AN students in all of our surveys, disaggregated data for this group are sometimes not reportable due to their relatively small population size. Therefore, data collections that specifically target this group of students can be particularly valuable in ensuring the educational research and policy community has the information they need. The National Indian Education Survey is one of the primary resources for data on AI/AN youth.

The National Indian Education Study (NIES) is administered as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to allow more in-depth reporting on the achievement and experiences of AI/AN students in grade 4 and 8. NIES provides data at the national level and for select states with relatively high percentages of American Indians and/or Alaska Natives.[3] It also provides data by the concentration of AI/AN students attending schools in three mutually exclusive categories: Low density public schools (less than 25 percent AI/AN);[4] High density public schools (more than 25 percent AI/AN);[5] and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.[6]

In a recently released report on the results of the 2015 NIES, differences in performance on the reading and mathematics assessments emerged across school type. In 2015, students in low density public schools had higher scores in both subjects than those in high density public or BIE schools, and scores for students in high density public schools were higher than for those in BIE schools. Additionally, there were some score differences over time. For example, at grade 8, average reading scores in 2015 for students in BIE schools were higher than scores in 2009 and 2007, but were not significantly different from scores in 2011 and 2005 (Figure 2). 

* Significantly different (p < .05) from 2015.
NOTE: AI/AN = American Indian/Alaska Native. BIE = Bureau of Indian Education. School density indicates the proportion of AI/AN students enrolled. Low density public schools have less than 25 percent AI/AN students. High density public schools have 25 percent or more. All AI/AN students (public) includes only students in public and BIE schools. Performance results are not available for BIE schools at fourth grade in 2015 because school participation rates did not meet the 70 percent criteria.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 2005-15 National Indian Education Studies.

The characteristics of students attending low density, high density, and BIE schools differed at both grades. For example, BIE schools had a significantly higher percentage of students who were English language learners (ELL) and eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Additionally, high density schools had a significantly higher percentage of ELL students and NSLP-eligible students than low density schools.

The report also explored to what extent AI/AN culture and language are part of the school curricula. AI/AN students in grades 4 and 8 reported that family members taught them the most about Native traditions. Differences by school type and density were observed in responses to other questions about the knowledge AI/AN students had of their family’s Native culture, the role AI/AN languages played in their lives, and their involvement in Native cultural ceremonies and gatherings in the community. For example, 28 percent of 4th-grade students in BIE schools reported they knew “a lot” about the history, traditions, or arts and crafts of their tribe compared to 22 percent of their AI/AN peers in high density schools, and 18 percent of those in low density schools. Similarly, 52 percent of 8th-grade students at BIE schools participated several times a year in ceremonies and gatherings of their AI/AN tribe or group, compared to 28 percent of their peers at high density public schools, and 20 percent of their peers at low density public schools.

If you’re interested in learning more about NIES, including what the study means for American Indian and Alaska Native students and communities, you can view the video below. Access the compete report and find out more about the study here:

[1] See

[2] See

[3] American Indian and Alaska Native state-specific 2015 NIES results are available for the following 14 states:  Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

[4] Less than 25 percent of the student body is American Indian or Alaska Native. In low density schools, AI/AN students represented 1 percent of the students at grades 4 and 8.

[5] 25 percent or more of the student body is American Indian or Alaska Native. In high density schools, 53 percent of 4th-graders and 54 percent of 8th-graders were AI/AN students.

[6] In BIE schools, 97 percent of 4th-graders and 99 percent of 8th-graders were AI/AN students. 

America’s Advanced Mathematics and Physics Students in a Global Context

By Dana Tofig, Communications Director, Institute of Education Sciences

In today’s increasingly global economy, there is a lot of interest in understanding how students in the United States (U.S.) are performing compared to their peers around the world. That is why the National Center for Education Statistics participates in and conducts several international assessments. One of those assessments—the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) Advanced—gives us a unique opportunity to see how our advanced students are performing in rigorous mathematics and physics classes as they complete high school. TIMSS Advanced is part of a broader data collection that also assesses the performance of 4th- and 8th-grade students in mathematics and science, the results of which are summarized in another blog entry.

The TIMSS Advanced 2015 was administered to students from nine education systems that were in their final year of secondary school who had taken or were taking advanced mathematics or physics courses. In the U.S., the TIMSS Advanced was given to over 5,500 students in Grade 12 who were taking or had taken advanced mathematics courses covering topics in geometry, algebra and calculus, or a second-year physics course. The last time that the U.S. participated in TIMSS Advanced was 1995.

What Percentage of Students Take Advanced Mathematics and Physics?

Among the nine education systems participating in TIMSS Advanced 2015, the percentage of the corresponding age cohort (18-year-olds in the U.S.) taking advanced mathematics varies widely. This percentage, which TIMSS calls the “coverage index,” ranges from a low of 1.9 percent to a high of 34.4 percent. The U.S. falls in the middle, with 11.4 percent of 18-year-olds taking advanced mathematics courses.  The U.S. advanced mathematics coverage index in 2015 has nearly doubled since 1995, when it was 6.4 percent.

In the U.S. and two other participating systems—Portugal and Russian Federation—the students taking advanced mathematics were split fairly evenly between male and female. In the remaining systems, the students in the coverage index were majority male, except for Slovenia, where 60 percent were female. Interestingly, Slovenia had the highest coverage index, at 34.4 percent.

It’s a different story in science for the U.S. Among 18-year-olds in the U.S., 4.8 percent took Physics, which was among the lowest for the nine systems participating in TIMSS Advanced. Only Lebanon (3.9 percent) had a lower percentage, while France had the highest coverage index at 21.5 percent. Males made up a majority of physics students in all nine participating systems, including the U.S. 

How Did U.S. Students Perform in Advanced Mathematics?

U.S. students scored 485 on TIMSS Advanced 2015 in advanced mathematics, which is not significantly different from the average U.S. score in 1995. It should be noted that on TIMSS 2015, given to a representative sample of fourth- and eighth-graders across the U.S., mathematics scores for both grades increased significantly from 1995 to 2015.

On TIMSS Advanced 2015 in advanced mathematics, two systems scored significantly higher than the U.S. (Lebanon and Russian Federation students who took intensive courses[1]) while five systems scored significantly lower (Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and Slovenia). The remaining two systems scored about the same as the U.S.

How Did U.S. Students Perform in Physics?

U.S. students scored 437 on TIMSS Advanced 2015 in physics, which was not statistically different than in 1995. No education system did better on physics in 2015 than 1995, but several did worse—four of the six systems that took the TIMSS Advanced in both 1995 and 2015 saw a significant drop in their scores.

Four of the nine countries participating in TIMSS Advanced 2015 in physics had a score that was significantly higher than the U.S. (Russian Federation, Portugal, Norway, and Slovenia) and three countries scored significantly lower than the U.S. (Lebanon, Italy and France). Sweden’s physics score was not significantly different than the U.S. 

A Note about Interpretation

It’s important to remember that there are differences in student characteristics and the structure of the various education systems that participated in TIMSS Advanced 2015. Those differences should be kept in mind when interpreting results. 

[1] Intensive courses are advanced mathematics courses that involve 6 or more hours per week. Results for students in these courses are reported separately from the results for other students from the Russian Federation taking courses that involve 4.5 hours per week. 

New Data From the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study

How do U.S. students compare to their international peers? A look at the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study at 4th and 8th-grade

By Lydia Malley

In today’s interconnected world, it is important to understand the skills of students in the U.S. relative to their international peers. To this end, NCES participates in a number of international assessments. Results from one of these assessments, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), were released on November 29th. Our new report, Highlights from TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced 2015, compares the mathematics and science performance of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade to that of their peers in over 60 countries or education systems across 6 continents. This report also presents results from TIMSS Advanced, which assessed the advanced mathematics and physics knowledge and skills of twelfth-graders in 9 countries. The results from TIMSS Advanced are discussed more in depth in another blog post.


TIMSS results show that the mathematic scores of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students have improved over time, while science scores have held relatively steady. TIMSS is designed to measure trends in mathematics and science achievement. Conducted every 4 years, TIMSS 2015 represents the sixth such study since TIMSS was first conducted in 1995.

Among the report’s key findings:

Fourth-grade mathematics:

  • Fourth-grade mathematics performance in the United States has improved since 1995.
  • Among 54 education systems that participated in the most recent TIMSS, average scores in 10 systems were higher than the U.S. average, 9 education systems were not measurably different from the U.S. average, and average scores in 34 systems were lower than the U.S. average.

Eighth-grade mathematics:

  • The eighth-grade average mathematics score of the United States in 2015 was higher than in any prior administration of TIMSS, since the first administration in 1995.
  • Among 43 education systems, average scores in 8 systems were higher than the U.S. average, 10 education systems were not measurably different from the U.S. average, and average scores in 24 systems were lower than the U.S. average.

Fourth-grade science:

  • Fourth-grade science performance in the United States in 2015 was not measurably different from the performance in 1995 or 2011.
  • Among 53 education systems that participated in the 2015 TIMSS, average scores in 7 systems were higher than the U.S. average, 7 education systems were not measurably different from the U.S. average, and average scores in 38 systems were lower than the U.S. average.

Eighth-grade science: U.S. eighth-graders’ average science score increased between 1995 and 2015, although the scores in the most recent years (2011 and 2015) were not measurably different.

  • Among 43 education systems, in 2015 average scores in 7 systems were higher than the U.S. average, in 9 education systems the average scores were not measurably different from the U.S. average, and average scores in 26 systems were lower than the U.S. average.

Results by Gender:

  • Males scored 7 points higher than females in fourth-grade mathematics, and eighth-grade mathematics scores for males and females were not measurably different.
  • Males scored four points higher than females in fourth-grade science and five points higher in eighth-grade science.

TIMSS is designed to align broadly with mathematics and science curricula in the participating education systems and, therefore, to reflect students’ school-based learning. TIMSS also collects information about educational contexts (such as students’ schools and teachers) that may be related to students’ achievement.

The full report is available at In addition, TIMSS results are now easier than ever to access, with more than 60 tables and figures, reports, detailed descriptions of the assessments, technical notes and more available on the TIMSS 2015 website, at

TIMSS and TIMSS Advanced are sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and managed in the United States by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), part of the U.S. Department of Education.