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Forum Curriculum for Improving Education Data
NCES 2007-808
May 2007

Appendix A: Glossary

Items in boldface are defined in this glossary.

A | B | C | D | E | F | H | L | P | S

ADA: average daily attendance
A data item upon which many state and federal reports are based. Refers to the average number of students in attendance each day within a school or district over a specific time period.
ADM: average daily membership
A data item upon which many state and federal reports are based. Refers to the average number of students enrolled within a school or district each day over a specific time period.
Combining separately reported data into a larger group; e.g., combining individual student attendance records into an overall district rate of attendance.
business rule
A guideline for standardizing how data are entered, validated, corrected, or applied. A fundamental tool in ensuring quality data. See decision rule, edit, process rule.
Report or data element conforming to legal and regulatory requirements.
confidential information
Information that, if disclosed, would generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy. In FERPA, any information that is not directory information is considered confidential; furthermore, parents have the right to request that directory information be kept confidential.


data analysis
Activities that seek to discern meaningful patterns and trends within data for the purpose of supporting effective decisions.
data audit
A procedure for monitoring the quality of data by analyzing reports for anomalies, inaccuracies, and missing data.
data calendar
A timeline, Gantt chart, table, or calendar showing the dates related to all events pertinent to the creation, movement, reporting, correcting, analyzing, or application of data.
data dictionary
A document defining the data elements collected and tracked by a system, indicating the nature of the element, any format restrictions, any rules that apply to the values (see business rule), and how the data will be used.
data element
The name of the most basic unit of data that can be defined and measured, e.g., Student Last Name. In some contexts, a data element is divisible into data items. Often used interchangeably with data item.
data event
Any occurrence that generates new data or information. Examples of data events include a test, an absence, and the registration of a new student.
data item
In some contexts, the smallest component of a data element. Sometimes a value classified under a data element (e.g., the data element "free or reduced lunch status" contains the data items "free," "reduced," and "paid"). Often used interchangeably with data element.
data ownership
Acknowledgement by each person involved with creating and applying data that he or she is responsible for the quality of the data: its accuracy, timeliness, utility, and security.
data quality standards
Criteria for measuring the quality of data or a report; e.g., "The grade field may have no more than 5 percent null entries on the mid-year report."
data silos
Separate repositories of data, the managers of which do not communicate with each other.


data steward/data coordinator
Staff member or staff members responsible for ensuring that the statistical information reviewed by senior staff presents data that have been entered accurately and collected systematically. Also responsible for enhancing the information reporting process through staff development and collaboration with the various offices and programs responsible for producing data and information.
data system
Usually refers to a computer-based application that holds information about a set of similar items (e.g., students, books, employees), with one record corresponding to each individual item in the set, and fields (e.g., first name, address, title) defined to hold specific data describing each item. In the larger sense, it is any combination of paper, electronics, and personnel that create, store, manage, and report on data.
data validation
A procedure for determining that all data values entered into a system are accurate.
data warehouse
A central repository of all, or a significant portion of, the data that an enterprise collects. A data warehouse generally provides access to data over a time span.
decision rule
A business rule that defines criteria for making a specific decision; e.g., "A student who scores below the proficient level on the state math assessment will be assigned to a remediation class until he or she achieves percent mastery of material."
decision support system
A cohesive, integrated hardware and software system designed specifically to manipulate data and enable users to distill and compile useful information from disparate sources of raw data to support problem solving and decisionmaking.
directory information
In FERPA, information not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. This is the information that would normally be included in a publicly available LEA directory or yearbook and defined by a district on an annual basis. Parents can request that student information normally included in a directory be kept confidential. Also defined as non-confidential information.
Breaking one element of a report into subsidiary groups; e.g., disaggregating a districtís student test scores into separate scores for each gender.
dropout rates
Two types:
  • annual student-the percentage of students who drop out in a given year
  • cohort-the percentage of students from a specific grade cohort (e.g., the class of 2009) who are dropouts at the time the cohort ends
Specific formulas for determining dropout rates vary from state to state, although an effort to define a nationwide standard is under way.


EDEN: Education Data Exchange Network
EDEN: Education Data Exchange Network A set of K-12 statistical reports gathered from state agencies by the U.S. Department of Education. Formerly known as the Performance-Based Data Management Initiative, EDEN attempts to gather statistics from each state such as school populations within subgroups (race, gender, etc.), graduation rates, and school spending.
A business rule programmed into the system into which data are entered, limiting the possibility of entering inaccurate or inappropriate data.
educational indicator
A measure of the status of, or change in, an educational system with regard to its goals; e.g., student graduation rates.
FERPA: Family Educational Records and Privacy Act
Federal law governing the confidentiality of student records. FERPA is administered at the federal level by the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education.
HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
Federal law governing the confidentiality of health records, both for students and staff.
LEA: Local Education Agency
A governmental administrative unit at the local level that exists primarily to operate schools or to contract for educational services.
personally identifiable information
Information contained in a record that would make the identity of a student easily traceable or discernible. It includes, but is not limited to, the studentís name, the name of the studentís parent or other family members, a personal identifier (such as a Social Security Number or student number), a list of personal characteristics that would make the studentís identity easily traceable, or other information that would make the studentís identity easily traceable.
Data elements and combinations of data elements that have been shown to accurately forecast other measures, e.g., the rate of student absenteeism is a predictor of dropout rates.
process rule
A business rule defining the steps for entering, verifying, or correcting data.


SEA: State Education Agency
The agency of the state charged with primary responsibility for coordinating and supervising public elementary and secondary instruction, including the setting of standards for instructional programs.
Component of quality data related to the confidentiality of student and staff records and to the technical issues associated with keeping data safe (firewalls, data backups, etc.).
SIF: School Interoperability Framework
A set of specifications that allows school-based data systems (SIS, cafeteria, library, etc.) to automatically keep data consistent across all applications.
SIS or SMS: Student Information System or Student Management System
Two of many acronyms and terms for a data system by which schools keep track of student demographic (address, birthdate, gender, ethnicity, etc.), enrollment, and schedule information. Typically the largest source of student data.
staff identifier
Unique code assigned to an individual employee of an LEA. Although historically often the same as the employeeís Social Security number, it is now generally considered better to assign a different identifying code.
student identifier
Unique code assigned to an individual student. Can be assigned on an LEA or statewide basis (that is, identifier can be unique within the school or district or unique within the entire state). LEA identifiers are often generated by a SIS.


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