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The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the part of the United States Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) that collects, analyzes, and publishes statistics on education and public school district finance information in the United States. It also conducts international comparisons of education statistics and provides leadership in developing and promoting the use of standardized terminology and definitions for the collection of those statistics. NCES is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System.


The functions of NCES have existed in some form since 1867, when Congress passed legislation providing ‘‘That there shall be established at the City of Washington, a department of education, for the purpose of collecting such statistics and facts as shall show the condition and progress of education in the several States and Territories, and of diffusing such information respecting the organization and management of schools and school systems, and methods of teaching, as shall aid the people of the United States in the establishment and maintenance of efficient school systems, and otherwise promote the cause of education throughout the country.’’ [1]

Organizational Structure[]

The National Center for Education Statistics fulfills a Congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report complete statistics on the condition of American education; conduct and publish reports; and review and report on education activities internationally. The structure and activities of the center are as follows:[2]

Office of the Commissioner[]

The Office of the Commissioner sets policy and standards for the Center and oversees its operation, thus ensuring that statistical quality and confidentiality are maintained.

Office of the Deputy Commissioner[]

The Office of the Deputy Commissioner, which includes the Chief Statistican and the Chief Technology Officer, provides state-of-the-art technology and statistical support to the Center and to federal and nonfederal organizations and entities involved in statistical work in support of NCES. In addition, the staff develops and operates a licensing system for individuals and organizations who require access to confidential data for statistical purposes.

Early Childhood, International and Crosscutting Studies Division (ECICSD)[]

Early Childhood, International and Crosscutting Studies Division (ECICSD) has responsibility within NCES for international comparisons, early childhood education, and school crime and safety. It is responsible for conducting studies and producing reports that cut across all levels of education, from early childhood through lifelong learning, and for maintaining relations with key international and interagency groups. The division also manages an on-going program to monitor American education through its annual reports, The Condition of Education, Digest of Education Statistics, and Projections of Education Statistics, and produces NCES's Programs and Plans.

Elementary/Secondary and Libraries Studies Division (ESLSD)[]

Elementary/Secondary and Libraries Studies Division (ESLSD) oversees planning, design, operations, statistical analysis, reporting, and dissemination for elementary, secondary, and library surveys at the national, state, and local levels. The staff also work with state and local representatives in the development and implementation of the Congressionally mandated National Cooperative Education Statistics System in the areas of elementary, secondary and libraries.

Postsecondary, Adult, and Career Education Division (PACE)[]

Postsecondary, Adult, and Career Education Division (PACE) oversees planning, design, operations, statistical analysis, reporting, and dissemination on postsecondary education, adult education, and career and technical education. PACE collects universe data on postsecondary institutions; conducts sample surveys on student financial aid and student access, persistence, completion, and outcomes of postsecondary education; and collects data on the education and training that youth and adults need to prepare for work. PACE staff are content knowledge experts and serve as consultants to programs in NCES that assess the academic proficiency and literacy of young adults, college students, and adults. In addition, PACE has responsibility within NCES for responding to the Congressional mandate to collect and report data on Career and Technical Education for high school students, college students, and adults. PACE maintains a robust publication and dissemination program to share the results of these studies with the public.

Assessment Division (AD)[]

Assessment Division (AD) creates, designs, develops, implements and reports on the National Assessment of Educational Progress at the national level and coordinates assessment and related data collection activities with the states. The staff also conducts a variety of other related education assessment studies.

Current Programs of Research[]

Assessment Programs[]

Early Childhood Studies[]

Elementary and Secondary Studies[]

  • The Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS), a study of a cohort of beginning public school teachers initially interviewed as part of the 2007-08 Schools and Staffing Survey;
  • The Common Core of Data which annually collects fiscal and non-fiscal data about all public schools, public school districts and state education agencies in the United States;
  • The School Survey on Crime and Safety;
  • The National Education Longitudinal Study of 1998 (NELS:88), which began with an 8th grade cohort in 1988, providing trend data about critical transitions experienced by young people as they develop, attend school, and embark on their careers'
  • The Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS), a longitudinal survey that monitors the transitions of a national sample of 2002 tenth graders to postsecondary education and the world of work;
  • The High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS), which follows a cohort of more than 25,000 9th graders in 2009 through their high school, postsecondary, and early career experiences, focusing on college decision-making and on math learning based on a new algebra assessment;
  • The Private School Universe Survey (PSS), which builds an accurate and complete list of private schools to serve as a sampling frame for NCES sample surveys of private schools and to report data on the total number of private schools, teachers, and students in the survey universe;
  • Components of the National Household Education Survey (NHES); and
  • The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which collects extensive data on American public and private elementary and secondary schools. Teachers, principals, schools, school districts and library media centers.

Postsecondary Studies[]

  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which collects aggregate institutional data on more than 7,000 postsecondary institutions that participate in Title IV federal student aid programs.
  • The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), a nationally-representative cross-sectional study of how students and families pay for college;
  • The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS), a nationally-representative longitudinal study that follows first-time, beginning students for six years after their entry to college and provides information about students' persistence and attainment outcomes; and
  • The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B), a nationally-representative longitudinal study that follows baccalaureate graduates for up to ten years, collecting information on their early labor market experiences and post-baccalaureate training and education.

External links[]

Websites for Students and Families[]

  • Kids' Zone, which helps kids learn about schools; find a public library; and engage in games, quizzes and skill building about math and related disciplines
  • College Navigator, which helps students and their families learn about and compare colleges and universities

Postsecondary Data Tools[]

  • Datalab, NCES's web-based tool for postsecondary sample survey data
  • IPEDS Data Center, NCES's web-based tool for analyzing IPEDS data

Other NCES Data Tools[]

Other NCES Resources[]

  • NCES Handbook of Survey Methods, which describes each survey program in NCES and how program data are obtained and prepared for publication and/or release
  • NCES Statistical Standards, which outline the standards used by NCES staff and contractors as surveys are designed, data collected and processed, and publications authored


  1. 120 Years of American Education: A Statistical Portrait, National Center for Education Statistics, 1993, pg. 1
  2. NCES: About US, National Center for Education Statistics

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