Clear Data Descriptions in NCES Reports

Research Project

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) charged the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) with convening a panel of technical experts to examine the issues of clarity, consistency and effectiveness in reporting NCES study and survey results. NCES is perhaps most widely regarded as a source for assessments of students’ proficiency and their education trajectories. However, NCES surveys and assessments also gather information on other aspects of education including economics, adult education levels of attainment, post-secondary education completion, and contemporary issues such as crime in schools. NCES education data is collected variously from surveys and assessments originating at NCES, internationally-generated assessments and surveys, collaborations with other federal agencies, and from the assembly of states’ administrative data with federal records and survey data.

Therefore, achieving consistency and clarity in language usage across NCES reports is extremely challenging and not always possible. The charge to this panel was to address both principles and processes and to set attainable goals for NCES in addressing this issue.

The panel met first via teleconference to discuss extensive materials prepared by NCES staff and on 5-6 February 2018 met in person with presentations and discussions with NCES staff followed by closed sessions for deliberation. The panel held further closed teleconferences to prepare this report

Research Team: 

Jim Albert, Ph.D., Professor, Bowling Green State University.

Jeremy Finn, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Counseling, School, and Educational Psychology, Graduate School of Education, University at Buffalo, SUNY.

Heather Ridolfo, Ph.D., Agricultural Statistician, Research and Development Division, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Nora Cate Schaeffer, Ph.D., Sewell Bascom Professor of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Gina Walejko, Ph.D., Survey Statistician; U.S Census Bureau.

Nell Sedransk, Ph.D., Director-DC, National Institute of Statistical Sciences; Statistics Professor, North Carolina State University.