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Appendix A: Methodology and Technical Notes

Common Core of Data survey system. The Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system contains nonfiscal and fiscal components and the Teacher Compensation Survey (TCS). The State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education, the Local Education Agency Universe Survey, and the Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey are the nonfiscal components, while the School District Finance Survey (F-33) and the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) are the fiscal components. State education agencies (SEAs) report these CCD surveys annually to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and participation is voluntary.

The U.S. Department of Education collects data for CCD nonfiscal surveys through the EDFacts data collection system. The U.S. Census Bureau performs the data collection for CCD fiscal surveys on behalf of NCES. The Census Bureau collects the fiscal data through an online data collection site. The Census Bureau and NCES then process, edit, and verify the data before publication. The fiscal year 2011 (FY 11) NPEFS collection opened on January 30, 2012, and closed on August 15, 2012. All states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. Island Areas reported in the FY 11 NPEFS collection.

Data quality. Staff at NCES and the Census Bureau collaborate to edit all CCD data submissions and ask state CCD coordinators to correct or confirm any numbers that appear out of range when compared with other states’ data or with the state’s reports in previous years. If a state provides no explanation for anomalous data, NCES will edit the data value based on a set of defined business rules. For example, NCES will replace a reported total with the sum of detail in cases where the sum of detail exceeds a reported total. NCES will also edit a value to “not available” if data values are not plausible (e.g., if the number of students increases tenfold from the prior year to the current year while the number of teachers remains unchanged from the prior year, NCES will set the current year value for teachers to “not available”).

Missing data. Not all states collect and report all of the data items requested in the CCD surveys. NCES imputes (replaces a nonresponse with a plausible value) for some missing items in NPEFS. Precise information about the extent of missing data is included in the documentation for the NPEFS FY 11 file, which can be accessed at: http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/stfis.asp.

Imputed and edited data. NCES imputes and edits some reported values in NPEFS to create data files that more accurately reflect finance data and to improve comparability among states. Imputations and edits are performed on data from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. Island Areas. A limited amount of data for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands were reallocated across expenditures functions.

  • Imputations is a procedure that uses available information and a set of assumptions to derive substitute values for missing values in a data file (NCES 2003). Imputations modify values for cases or records where data are not reported (missing) or are incorrectly reported. In the case of missing data, an imputation assigns a value to the missing item using a consistent methodology and increases the subtotals containing this item by the amount of the imputation. The same method is used for imputing revenues and expenditures. Revenues are imputed based on total revenues in reporting states, and expenditures are imputed based on total expenditures in reporting states.
  • Edits correct cases in which a value reported for one item contains a value for one or more additional items not reported elsewhere. For example, a state might not differentiate between instructional support staff and student support staff, reporting “missing” for student support staff salaries, and a value for instructional support staff salaries that includes both items. NCES edits these two responses by reducing the amount reported for instructional support staff salaries proportional to prior year data for that state or the averages across states and adding that amount to student support staff salaries. The total for salaries and total expenditures would not be affected by this edit.

All imputed values in the tables in this report are noted. Imputed values are not used in the imputation of other values. Totals and subtotals in tables are noted if one or more items in the total or subtotal are imputed or edited. In some instances, redistribution of reported values to correct for missing data items may affect state values.

Beginning with the FY 06 file, NCES notes values that have been affected by the distribution of state direct support for and on behalf of school districts. This results in many more items having noted data than in previous reports. States that report their direct support expenditures with their detailed finance data are not noted, since no redistribution was required.

Each school year SEAs report student membership counts by grade on the CCD State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education. The FY 11 NPEFS data file includes total student membership reported on the school year 2010-11 State Nonfiscal Survey that includes grades prekindergarten through grade 12 (plus ungraded). If the reported fiscal data excludes prekindergarten programs, total membership on the NPEFS data file also excludes prekindergarten membership. As part of the FY 11 NPEFS collection process, NCES asked SEAs to review student membership data from the State Nonfiscal Survey and verify that the membership data are consistent with the programs covered in the revenues and expenditures data reported in NPEFS. Two states (Nebraska and Wyoming) indicated that the state fiscal data reported in NPEFS excluded prekindergarten programs. In these two states, the NPEFS total student membership variable excludes prekindergarten membership. Illinois and Wisconsin did not report finance data for charter schools in the FY 11 NPEFS survey. NCES edited the NPEFS total student membership variable for Illinois and Wisconsin by excluding students from districts where all associated schools are charter schools.

Totals. National totals reported in the tables are limited to the 50 states and the District of Columbia and do not include data from the five other jurisdictions of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Current expenditures. Researchers generally use current expenditures instead of total expenditures when comparing education spending between states or across time because current expenditures exclude expenditures for capital outlay, which tend to have dramatic increases and decreases from year to year. Also, the current expenditures commonly reported are for public elementary and secondary education only. Many school districts also support community services, adult education, private education, and other programs, which are included in total expenditures. These programs and the extent to which they are funded by school districts vary greatly both across and within states.

Comparability of fiscal data across states. Because the District of Columbia is a single urban district, it is often an outlier in comparisons of revenues and expenditures, with larger revenues and expenditures per student than most states have. Similarly, Hawaii is a single school district and funds public education primarily through state taxes. Because of this, Hawaii’s data may be distinctive compared to other states.

Inflation-adjusted data. Data in tables 4 and 5 and figure 2 in this report have been adjusted to FY 11 dollars to account for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjusted to a fiscal year basis (July through June). The CPI is published by the U.S. Labor Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. This price index measures the average change in inflation of a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by consumers.2 FY 10 data were adjusted by multiplying the reported variable by 1.02007982097954.

Fiscal years. The fiscal year used by most SEAs begins on July 1 and ends on June 30 for most states. The fiscal years for Alabama and Washington, D.C. run from October 1 through September 30, and the fiscal years for Nebraska, Texas, and Washington run from September 1 through August 31. NCES does not adjust NPEFS data to conform to a uniform fiscal year across states.

ARRA data. In February of 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The ARRA legislation allocated federal education funds directly to the states.3 As a result of ARRA, NCES added seven data items to NPEFS in order to collect and analyze data pertaining to Title I, Impact Aid, and other ED funds (Office of the Federal Register 2009). NCES collected ARRA-related data in the NPEFS collection for FY 09, FY 10, and FY 11. ARRA data are not being separately reported in this First Look report.


2 NCES Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 Advance Release Tables, Table 34, http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_034.asp, downloaded May 29, 2013.
3 http://www.recovery.gov/About/Pages/The_Act.aspx; retrieved December 15, 2011.

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