AEFP 45th Annual Conference

Toward a Meaningful Impact through Research, Policy & Practice

March 19-21, 2020

Accessing and Exploring NCES Data

Pre-Conference Workshop: Thursday March 21, 2019, 8:30am - 12:00pm

Cost: $100


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has several state-of-the-art data tools that allow users to easily access and analyze data. This workshop provides participants with a comprehensive overview of those tools to access data sets. Participants will learn how to access public-use and restricted-use data sets, create reports and data tables, find published reports and conduct analyses in selected statistical tools. NCES offers a large variety of national, state, local, school and student data sets including assessment data, cross sectional data, survey data and administrative records, and participants will better understand which data sets cover their educational topic of interest.

The workshop is designed for graduate students, faculty members, researchers and other users with interest in using NCES data for their research studies, evaluations, and data projects. Participants are not required to have any pre-requisite skills to attend, and should bring their personal laptops for interactive, in-class activities. Each participant will receive an Accessing and Exploring NCES Data “cookbook,” that provides comprehensive instruction and screen shots explaining how to navigate a myriad of NCES data tools and the DLDT.

The workshop will introduce NCES’ Distance Learning Dataset Training System (DLDT). The workshop will also offer an in-depth instruction on four NCES data tools, including the Elementary/Secondary Information System (ELSI); the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer; Educational Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) data tools to explore ACS and GIS data; and the new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

1. Distance Learning Dataset Training System (DLDT) – Andrew White

Andrew White, a senior research statistician at NCES, will present the DLDT system.  The Distance Learning Dataset Training (DLDT) system is an online, interactive tool that allows you to learn about the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data products across the education spectrum and evaluate them for your particular purposes. The DLDT modules are designed to introduce you to many NCES datasets, their design, and special considerations for analysis to facilitate effective use. The DLDT can be found at

The DLDT modules provide information about NCES and specific NCES datasets. They can help users find published reports; acquire, access, and explore data; and create data files for analysis. The modules also explain how to conduct analyses using selected statistical software packages and/or by using data tools provided on the NCES website. Additionally, they provide instruction on how to obtain and successfully use NCES Public-use and Restricted-use datasets. The DLDT allows users to access this information at no cost and is a self-paced system.

There are two types of DLDT modules:

Common Modules that provide information to help users understand NCES data across the education spectrum. They provide general information about the NCES, its research methods, the Center’s surveys, published data products and reports, how to access public- and restricted-use datasets and provide an overview of the many tools that are available on the NCES website to help users locate and make effective use of NCES data.

Dataset-Specific Modules that below provide more detailed information about specific studies conducted by NCES, and how to use and analyze the particular datasets appropriately. There are Dataset-Specific Modules covering NCES datasets in the following categories

  • Longitudinal survey datasets categorized as early childhood and elementary, secondary, and postsecondary studies.
  • Cross-Sectional survey datasets targeting households, teachers and principals, schools and staffing, crime and safety, fast response survey datasets on many topics, and ancillary postsecondary surveys focused on topics of national interest.
  • National Assessments of Educational Progress and international assessments of reading literacy, mathematics and science, student assessment, and assessments of adult competencies.
  • Universe data collections on public and private schools, postsecondary institutions, and selected data submitted by State Education Agencies and Local Education Agencies through the NCES EDFacts data portal.

2. Elementary/Secondary Information System (ELSI)-Stephen Q. Cornman, Jumaane Young and Stephen Wheeler

This interactive on-line session by Stephen Cornman provides guidance and advice on using the ELSI data tool to navigate five NCES data sets, including the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS); the School District Finance Survey (F-33); the School Universe Survey; the Local Education Agency Universe Survey; and the State non-fiscal Survey from the Common Core of Data (CCD). The CCD is the primary database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States. The data tool can be found at

This section offers interactive training on the ELSI data tool that allows the data user to create user-specific tables of public school data by selecting data elements from over 400 variables at the state, district, or school level. For example, researchers can choose from a myriad of data elements including school or district demographics, urbanicity, enrollment information, students in special programs, revenue by source, finance per pupil ratios, teacher and staff characteristics, among other variables. Stephen will run sample tables by district by illustrating the amount of education funding that actually makes it into the classroom by running instructional expenditures per pupil in conjunction with total expenditures per pupil, current expenditures per pupil, support services expenditures per pupil, and locale codes; while simultaneously showing these steps in the Acessing and Exploring NCES Data “cookbook.” Advice on downloading or printing tables in various formats will be also offered.

Stephen Wheeler will give an overview of the School District Finance Survey (F-33) and the data files and resources available from NCES. In addition, there will be an overview of the multiple data files, publications, and other resources available on the U.S. Census Bureau website for the F-33. NCES and the U.S. Census Bureau release several data files on their respective websites, including complete unit-level files with data for the nearly 18,000 school districts in the United States. Full comprehensive documentation is available for these data files on both the NCES and Census Bureau websites. The F-33 collects data on revenues, expenditures, debt, and assets for all school districts in the fifty states and the District of Columbia.

3. NAEP Data Explorer-Emmanuel Sikali

Emmanuel Sikali will present an introduction and broad overview of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the NAEP Data Explorer. The NAEP Data Explorer is a rich and dynamic database of all NAEP data.

This session will exclusively present an overview of the NAEP Data Explorer (NDE), State Profiles, State Comparisons, Explore NAEP Questions, and District Profiles, which can be accessed at The NAEP portion of the Accessing and Exploring NCES Data session is intended to reach a broader audience of policy- makers, researchers, students, and members of the public who are less familiar with NAEP data. This session will expand the dissemination of NAEP data to persons beyond data users who already have comprehensive knowledge of the assessment program and are deeply steeped in the nuances of NAEP data.

4. Educational Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) data tools- Laura Nixon

Laura Nixon will present the tools available from the Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) program. In this portion of the training Laura will introduce attendees to demographic and geographic data resources developed by the EDGE program and will walk participants through multiple examples of how to access and analyze these data with the ACS-ED Tables, Dashboard, and Maps tools available at She will also provide a quick overview of tools available from the NCES MapEd website.

The EDGE program develops demographic and geographic data for schools, school districts, and other areas relevant to educational research and program administration. The EDGE ACS-ED Tables tool provides query access to extensive collection of custom tabulations developed for NCES from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).The ACS is the largest continuous household survey in the U.S., and NCES custom tabulations provide large amounts of annually updated demographics of school-age children and parents available from the federal government. Estimates for race, ethnicity, poverty, language use, disability, health insurance coverage and a variety of other characteristics can be identified for specific school districts and downloaded for further exploration and integration with other data. An overview of these characteristics for school districts is available with the ACS-ED Dashboard tool, and characteristics can be mapped with the ACS-ED Maps tool. After a discussion of geographic data available on the EDGE website, Laura will highlight two new tools on the NCES MapED website: Locale Lookup and SAFE Map.

5. Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)-Gigi Jones

Finally, researchers interested in postsecondary data will learn from Gigi Jones how to use the new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data tools through the new IPEDS website. Unlike most of the datasets at NCES, the IPEDS data collection is a compliance data collection, resulting in a 99.9% response rate from over 7,000 U.S. postsecondary institutions. IPEDS collects information about the institution and the students and staff at those institutions. For example, IPEDS collects information about student graduation rates and other success measures. IPEDS collects a suite of data to help track postsecondary student progress and success, including first–year retention rates; graduation rates (e.g. first-time, full-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates at 100 %, 150% , and 200% of normal completion time); and outcome measures (e.g. number of degrees conferred and the enrollment status of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate student cohorts both 6 and 8-years after a cohort enters an institution).

Researchers will learn how to use the IPEDS data through three tools: Data Trends, Comparing Schools, and Downloadable Data Set (tools will be presented in order from easiest to hardest level of user difficulty). Data Trends tool provides a quick and easy way to access IPEDS on limited but frequently asked postsecondary topic areas (e.g., student enrollment, student graduation rates, and financial aid). Tables and reports can be generated from the Data Trends tool. Comparing Schools tool gives researchers more freedom to use the entire IPEDS dataset by selecting the desired variables and institution characteristics for a group of institutions. Finally, Downloadable Data Set allows researchers to access the raw data files; however, researchers will need to learn the unique nuances of the data files and tips in setting up their datasets, which will be covered in this training. For each data tool, Gigi will provide advice on how to conduct postsecondary data analyses.

Cost: $100