Data elements are the basic units, the building blocks, of information.
They are generally quantifiable and measurable. This Guide identifies
the basic data elements that have been judged to be most useful
in answering a full range of policy questions about school facilities,
which include the school buildings themselves and their related
outdoor areas (such as playing fields, parking lots, and playgrounds),
as well as administrative buildings (including administrative offices,
bus garages, and warehouses) owned and operated by a school district.
The scope is limited to identifying the most important pieces of
information that are feasible for school districts to keep in their
data systems and that can be compiled and aggregated to develop
statistics describing the inventory, condition, design, utilization,
management, and funding of educational and administrative facilities
operated by public school systems.
The data elements that are included and defined in this Guide will
help education stakeholders with tasks such as these:
- identifying building and grounds inventory;
- assessing the condition of building systems and components;
- describing the quality and character of facilities design;
- evaluating the utilization of educational and administrative
- describing the school district's management of facilities; and
- reporting on facilities funding.
Data elements on furniture, fixtures, and movable equipment are
excluded from this Guide. Data elements relating to technology use
in schools and by school administrators are the focus of another
Forum publication. Existing definitions from other sources are used
wherever possible and appropriate.4
This Guide does not try to define architectural and construction
data elements except where they have a unique meaning as applied
to schools. It is not meant to include all of the information about
school facilities needed to run a school district, but rather focuses
on the data needed to answer policy questions. These data elements
can be used to collect comparable education information at all levels
of the school system.5
Related data can be drawn from other sources, including student,
staff, finance, and facilities databases. The goal is facilities
data that allow for meaningful comparisons among schools and among
The information in this Guide will be of use to persons who manage
or plan education facilities; members of local school boards, state
education agencies, and state boards of education; and government
officials who need dependable information to set long-term directions.
It will also serve decision makers who have a broader purview that
includes but is not limited to schools, such as municipal planners
and state and federal legislators. Since questions about program
effectiveness and efficiency often require information about the
capacity of school facilities and their ability to support instructional
programs, this document is expected to also serve the needs of federal
agencies, education interest groups, researchers, school administrators,
and members of the business community. Moreover, to the extent that
this document facilitates the collection of clear and comprehensive
facilities data, members of the media and the general public will
be in a position to better understand and analyze school facilities
This Guide was written under the direction of the Education Facilities
Data Task Force, which was established by the National Education
Statistics Agenda Committee of the National Forum on Education Statistics,
to identify the basic data elements for education facilities data.
The Task Force, supported by the Administrative Records Development
Project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, began by
examining current data needs and collections. Two principal sources
of data elements and definitions that were identified and extensively
used by the Task Force were the NCES publications Property Accounting:
A Handbook of Standard Terminology and A Guide for Classifying
Information about Education Property (also referred to as Handbook
III, Revised 1977, now out of print). The conceptual framework of
interconnecting policy questions, indicators, and data elements
is modeled on the Task Force's predecessor and its 1997 report,
Basic Data Elements
for Elementary and Secondary Education Information Systems,
which focused on student and staff data. This was the second major
source for the current Guide.
Project staff also examined federally required definitions or standards,
including the Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines,
information from the Office of Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA), Indoor Air Quality Basics for Schools, and others. The goal
was to identify data elements, together with best-practice definitions
from professional resources such as the International Building Code,
International Fire Code, publications of the American Institutes
of Architects, as well as input from school security and emergency
Staff from the Council of Chief State School Officers reviewed
currently available data in their report An Analysis of State
Collection and Reporting of School Facilities Data. This description
of actual information, when compared with the desired information
identified from other sources, laid out the general scope and direction
for the task force.
With a list of data elements, the Task Force began to narrow the
focus based on the agreed-upon criteria (described in Chapter
3) for selection. The Task Force identified key measures of
the indicators, and defined them to show how they incorporated the
Finally, the draft Guide for Collecting and Using Data on Elementary
and Secondary Educational Facilities was reviewed by many interested
parties (including architects, school business managers, and school
facilities planners) for comprehensiveness and accuracy. These reviewers'
insights and perspectives were invaluable in shaping the final document.
In summary, the Guide took as its sources both current and recommended
practice, and relied upon the advice of subject experts and data
users to organize the information in a logical, accessible product.
This same process will be followed in subsequent revisions of the
Guide in hope that it will remain a useful tool for schools and
school planners for some time.