The data elements in the Handbook can be used in a variety of ways. A teacher, school administrator, or local/state education agency may use the data elements to design an education management information system. The selection of data elements to be collected is the responsibility of the school, local administrative unit, or state education agency that directs the development and maintenance of education records. The data elements and definitions could also be used by a researcher in several ways. They could be used to design a data collection instrument (survey) on any of a wide range of topics related to the work of an education agency. The data elements and definitions could also be incorporated into the survey instructions to ensure that comparable data are collected.Domain: Used to indicate the management level at which the data is maintained. Within the Handbooks, the data elements are organized based on a hierarchical grouping schematic. At the most general level, data elements are grouped in terms of their respective Domain. For example, an element in the Student Domain would be kept on the student record, in the LEA Domain would be kept in the district’s database, etc.
Sections: Each domain is further divided into Sections. A Section is very much like a chapter of a book, in that sections divide or separate related information or, in this case, data elements. Examples of sections include Personal Information, Institution Identification, and Program.
Category: Within each section, data elements are further assigned into a Category. A Category identifies a group of data elements that are all related within a given section. Examples of categories include Activity Information, Honors Information, and Post-School Education/Training.
Entities: Persons, places, events, objects, or concepts about which data can be collected. For example, the data element "Last/Surname" could be collected to describe a student's emergency contact, a teacher, or a health care provider, thus putting the data element into a context. A listing of entities and their definitions is included with the Handbooks.
Instance: The use of a data element with a particular entity. For example, "Last/Surname" is a data element that can be paired with the entity "Student" to establish an instance that identifies a student’s last/surname. Option sets are also associated with instances when appropriate.
Other Defined Terms: Terms used in the definition of elements, options, and entities that can be further defined.
Data Element: The name of a unit of data that can be defined and measured. Each data element has been assigned a unique "data element number" consisting of four digits. The numbers do not carry any additional meaning. The data elements have been assigned these numbers for identification purposes.
Name: The name of the data element, option or entity as referred to in the NCES Handbooks Online.
Definition: A description of the meaning of a word or concept.
Element or Option Number: The four-digit number assigned to a data element or the five-digit number assigned to options for coding and organizational purposes in the NCES Handbooks Online.
Element Type: A description of the form or qualities (i.e., the “type”) of the data that constitutes the element. Data element “types” include:
Field Length: The recommended maximum number of places the value of a data element would require in an automated record system. For example, a descriptive Alpha/Numeric (AN) element might require 60 letters or numbers for a response, whereas a Date (DT) would require 8 digits (MMDDYYYY). Only a maximum suggested field length has been included here. In designing a data collection system, a minimum length is also generally specified. All field length recommendations are illustrative and not mandated.
Options: Give recommended alternatives or responses for a data element. Options are listed in alphabetical order, and have assigned code numbers. For example, "Female" and "Male" are options under the data element "Sex". Options presented are generally illustrative, not mandatory. In some cases, a subset of options might be sufficient when designing a data system or data collection instrument. For some data elements, comprehensive lists of options would have been useful, but were not available or could not be created. In these cases, examples of options are listed but comprehensive lists are not included. For some other data elements, options lists were created to meet a perceived need, even though an exhaustive list was not possible. For some data elements, free-form (open-ended) options are the appropriate responses. In these cases, no options are presented. For other data elements, more extensive lists of options might be obtained from other sources.
Related Options: A recommended code list that serves as a response for a data element. For example, “Female” and “Male” are options under the data element “Sex.” Options are listed in either alphabetical order or in a logical sequence, and have assigned code numbers.
Related Elements: The data element that the option serves as a response to.
Related Instance Categories: A listing of the instances of the data element in the Handbooks.
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