AEFP 46th Annual Conference

Promoting Equity and Opportunity Through Education Policy Research

Held Virtually from March 17-19, 2021

Accessing and Exploring NCES and Census Data

Accessing and Exploring NCES and Census Data - Agenda
Association for Education Finance and Policy
March 4, 2021, 1:00-4:00 PM
Overview of IES/NCES Participant interests/preferences Stephen Q. Cornman 1:00-1:15 PM
School District Finance Survey (F-33) NCES and Census data files Kaitlin Hanak 1:15-1:35 PM
National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) Jumaane Young 1:35-2:00 PM
Non-fiscal file access/Locators Elementary and Secondary Information Data Tool (ELSI) Kaitlin Hanak
Erika Chen
2:00-3:00 PM
Break 2:00-3:10 PM
Educational Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) Doug Geverdt 3:10-3:30 PM
National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer Stephen Q. Cornman
Malia Howell
3:30-3:50 PM
Questions NCES/Census Staff 3:50-4:00 PM


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 skills session 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 session 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/Census 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 also offer an in-depth instruction on five 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; the Distance Learning Dataset Training System (DLDT); and the new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).  

1.  Elementary/Secondary Information System (ELSI)-Stephen Q. Cornman

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.1

2.  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.        

3.  Educational Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) data tools- Doug Geverdt

This portion of the presentation will introduce analytic and reference tools available from the Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) program ( The EDGE program develops data and analytic resources to better understand the social and spatial context of local schools and school systems. The ACS-ED Tables tool provides an extensive collection of custom school district demographic, economic, and housing characteristics developed from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), the largest continuous household survey in the U.S. The School District Demographic Dashboard provides a subset of the ACS-ED characteristics in an easy-to-use infographic, and the ACS-ED Maps tool offers a convenient way to view and compare district-level social and economic conditions in their geographic context. The Locale Lookup and SAFEMap tools provide additional information about local and regional geographic conditions that influence schools and school systems. Lastly, the EDGE Open Data portal provides easily accessible web services for all EDGE geospatial data and portions of the ACS-ED collection. This provides a seamless data option for GIS users, and it includes additional download options and access to APIs. The EDGE Open Data portal also includes built-in web mapping options to view, analyze, find, and integrate additional data layers. This is particularly handy for data users who don’t have access to a GIS. This high-level overview of EDGE analytic tools will also offer a useful introduction to many of the EDGE data collections and time series. The program’s unique combination of economic, demographic, and geographic data provides a helpful resource for researchers and policy makers who need to better understand the context of education finance.

4.  Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)-Sam Barbett

Finally, researchers interested in postsecondary data will learn how to use the new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data tools through the new IPEDS website. An administrative data collection, 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.

Researchers will learn how to use the IPEDS data through three tools: Data Trends also known as Trend Generator, 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, an NCES staff member will demonstrate and provide tips on conducting postsecondary data analyses.

5.  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.

[1] 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 Accessing and Exploring NCES Data “cookbook.” Advice on downloading or printing tables in various formats will be also offered.