The Common Core of Data (CCD) contains basic information on public elementary and secondary schools, local education agencies (LEAs), and state education agencies (SEAs) in the United States. The CCD collects fiscal and nonfiscal data about all public schools, public school districts, and state education agencies in the United States. Both IPEDS and CCD provide a sampling frame to many survey collections, including many conducted by NCES and the Department of Education. This blog post, one in a series of posts about CCD nonfiscal data, focuses on CCD’s two major releases and their corresponding components. For information on how to access and use CCD data, read the blog post Accessing the Common Core of Data (CCD).
CCD nonfiscal data are published in two releases every school year—as preliminary files and as provisional data files—within the CCD Data File tool. Understanding the differences between the two releases is important to understand how CCD nonfiscal data are released.
- The preliminary files contain basic information about schools and districts, such as name, address, phone number, status, and NCES ID number. Many schools and districts utilize information from the directory file, such as the NCES ID, to apply for grants or other opportunities for their schools. Therefore, it is important that these files are released first, even if the data are still preliminary.
- The provisional data files are the full release of the CCD nonfiscal data. These data files provide school-, district-, and state-level data on topics like enrollment, staffing, and free or reduced-price lunch. These files are much more detailed and include data that are broken down by characteristics such as grade, race/ethnicity, and gender—as well as by combinations of these characteristics. These files are not updated unless there is a significant change to the data.
Each file release includes a version that indicates the type of release. The first preliminary files have “0a” in the file names, and revised preliminary files include “0b,” “0c,” and so on. The first provisional files have “1a,” in the file names, and revised provisional files include “1b,” “1c,” and so on. Note, however, that releasing revised files is rare.
Components of a Release
It is important to utilize the various components that accompany each release to find additional information that is specific to the file and can help you better understand the data. In addition, there are other resources available that provide more ways to access and understand the data.
Every data file will have documentation files that provide information about the data. These include the following:
- release notes—basic information about the data release, including details about any changes to the files, such as a change in a variable’s description or a variable that was added to the file; summary tables that include national totals and tables with selected frequencies are also included.
- state data notes—information on data anomalies that are discovered during NCES’s collaboration with the states; broken down by state and by file type, these notes describe things like changes to how data were collected by the state.
- companion files—included in each data file component, these files include a list of all the variables in the data file—including a brief description—and frequency tables; you should start with the companion files to better understand what variables are in each data file.
Resources and Tools
Along with the release of the CCD nonfiscal data files, additional resources are also updated to improve access to the data.
- Summary Tables: Released with the provisional data files, Summary Tables provide a national-level look at the data. These tables show the operational status of schools and districts by type as well as the number of schools, students, and teachers by state.
- Locators and ElSi: There are two primary tools that can be used to access CCD data: the Locators (School Locator and District Locator) and the Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi). These tools are updated as the data files are released. The Locators are updated with each release, while ElSi is updated with the release of the provisional data files. Learn more about these tools.
- Online Documentation: The online documentation provides some general information about CCD. This information is not year specific, but it provides a detailed explanation about how the data are collected, processed, and reviewed.
- Reference Library: The reference library includes detailed documentation on various components of the CCD files that applies to multiple years, levels, and components of the data collection. The library includes crosswalks, documentation describing changes to the collection, and guidance for utilizing the data files, such as how to aggregate free or reduced-price lunch data.
Be sure to follow NCES on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay up-to-date on future CCD releases and resources.
By Patrick Keaton, NCES