Harvard Graduate School of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education Harvard Graduate School of Education

Datasets from NCES

The website at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is remarkable.  Public-use NCES datasets, with electronic codebooks and data-analysis systems, are available free.  Some datasets can be downloaded directly on-line, while others are sent to you on a CD-ROM in the mail, on request.

NCES also provides prompt and friendly user-support for its data products.  Information about each dataset is provided on the web, often along with summary statistics.  Each dataset has a support person to respond to your phone or email questions.  For most datasets, NCES also maintains a database of FAQs, technical reports, substantive findings, users' names and affiliations, etc.  It even gives away software (called DAS) for obtaining summary statistics interactively from the datasets or for conducting statistical analyses that take account of the complex survey sample design (called AM).

In the following list, I provide annotated links to the most useful NCES datasets in the assessment of educational progress, early childhood development, elementary and secondary education, postsecondary education, and international education.

Assessments of National Progress.

National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL).  Nationally-representative assessment of the literacy skills of adults in English, on-going since 1992.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  Nationally-representative assessment of US students' skills in art, civics, geography, history, math, reading, science, and writing, on-going since 1969.  Not longitudinal at the individual student level.

Early Childhood Development.

Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS).  Nationally-representative longitudinal data on the development and early school experiences for two cohorts of children.  The Kindergarten Cohort contains 23,000 kindergartners who were first surveyed in 1998 and will be followed through 5th grade.  The Birth Cohort contains 15,000 children who will be followed from birth in 2000 up through 1st grade.

Elementary and Secondary Education.

High School & Beyond (HS&B).  Longitudinal data on the educational and work trajectories of seniors and sophomores from 1980 through 1992.
National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS88).  Longitudinal data on the life, educational and work trajectories of an 8th grade cohort, beginning in 1988 with follow-up surveys in 1990, 1992, 1994, and 2000.
National Household Education Survey (NHES).  A household-based system to collect data on the educational activities of the U.S. population, in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1999, and 2001.
National Longitudinal Study of the Class of 1972 (NLS72).  Longitudinal data on the trajectories of young adults as they move through high school, postsecondary education and into work, from 1972 through 1986.
Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS).  Longitudinal data on teachers, principals, schools and school districts in the US public and private education system.  To be administered next in the 2003-2004 school year.

School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS).  Data on crime and safety from a nationally-representative sample of 3000 US elementary and secondary public schools from principals, administered first in 2000 and then every two years.

Postsecondary Education.

Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&B).  Longitudinal data on education and employment experiences (including, in the teaching profession) for a cohort of students who completed a bachelor's degree in 1992-93, with follow-ups in 1994 and 1997.
Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Survey (BPS).  Longitudinal data on the postsecondary educational careers of first time beginning students, begun in 1989-90 and followed up in 1992 and 1994.
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).  Repeated cross-sectional data collected from providers of postsecondary education on student enrollments and completions, faculty and staff, finances, etc.

National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF).  Repeated cross-sectional data on a nationally-representative sample of full-and part-time faculty at public/private, not-for-profit, 2/4-year institutions in the USA, conducted first in 1987-88 and repeated in 1992-93 and 1998-99, with the next data collection planned for 2003-04.

International Education.

Civic Education Study (CivEd).  Provides (1999) data on what 9th grade children (or their equivalent)  knew about democratic practices and institutions in the USA and 28 other countries.
International Survey of Adults (ISA).  A comparative study of adult skills across participating countries, including the USA.
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).  A comparative study of the reading achievement and reading experiences of 4th grade children (or their equivalent) in 35 countries.
Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).  An assessment of 15-year-olds' reading, math, and science literacy across 32 countries.  Organized by the OECD and administered first in 2000.
Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).  Provides international comparative data on trends in students' math and science achievement.  Next wave of data to be collected in 2003.

Contact me: John_Willett@Harvard.Edu

Page last updated: May 31, 2005


Read HGSE Publishing Policies & Disclaimers
2003 President & Fellows of Harvard College