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Research Issues

Selected Analytic Approaches

The SASS is the largest, most extensive survey of K-12 school districts, schools, teachers, and administrators in the U.S. today. It includes data from the public and private sectors. In most collections, Bureau of Indian Education schools were also included. Therefore, the SASS provides a multitude of opportunities for analysis and reporting on elementary and secondary educational issues. The possibilities include:

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Comparisons across Sectors

The SASS asks similar questions of respondents across sectors, including public and private schools, and public charter schools and Bureau of Indian Affairs Schools in select years. The consistency of questions across sectors and the large sample sizes allow for exploration of similarities and differences across sectors.

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Studies at the State or Private School Affiliation Level

SASS data are representative at the state level for public school respondents and at the private school affiliation level for private school respondents. Thus, SASS is invaluable for analysts interested in elementary, middle, and secondary schools within or across specific states or private school affiliations.

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Comparisons of Subgroups of Respondents

The large SASS sample allows extensive disaggregation of data according to the characteristics of teachers, administrators, schools and school districts. For example, researchers can compare urban and rural settings, and the working conditions of teachers and administrators of differing demographic backgrounds.

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Change over Time

SASS data have been collected seven times over the period between 1987 and 2012. Many questions have been asked of respondents at multiple time points, allowing researchers to examine trends on these topics over time. In addition, the linkage of the SASS data and the Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) create a small longitudinal component. A subset of teachers who respond to SASS are surveyed during the next school year, including teachers who have changed schools, left the teaching profession, and a subsample of teachers who have stayed at the same school over the two school years. Thus, researchers can study the antecedents of teacher attrition. SASS also added the Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS) in 2008-09 and 2012-13. These surveys provide information about principal attrition.

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Links to Other Data Sources

Users of restricted-use SASS data can link school districts and schools to other data sources. For instance, 1999–2000 SASS restricted-use data sets include selected information taken from the NCES's Common Core of Data (CCD).

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Context for Focused Studies

The SASS data can be very useful for researchers performing their own focused studies on smaller populations of teachers, administrators, schools, or school districts. The SASS can supply data at the state, affiliation, or national level that provide valuable contextual information for localized studies; localized studies can provide illustrations of broad findings produced by SASS.

Selected Research Topics

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School Quality

SASS data address many elements of school quality and one aspect that is drawing increasing attention from policy makers involves access to information technology. The 1999–2000 SASS includes a considerable amount of new information regarding technology. The survey includes items on the number of computers in the schools, the presence of technical coordinators and support personnel, the use of computers for instructional purposes.

An example of an analysis of school quality using several NCES data sets, including SASS, is Monitoring School Quality: An Indicators Report (NCES 2001030) Link Icon. This synthesis explores why some schools may be better than others at helping students learn. It reviews 13 characteristics of schools, classrooms and teachers that are most likely related to school quality and student learning. For each indicator, the report identifies the availability of reliable national data and assesses the current status of our schools by examining and critiquing these national indicator data.

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School Management

Recent years have seen a growing awareness of the importance of principals in developing teaching faculty, allocating educational resources and establishing school atmosphere. The 1999–2000 SASS allows researchers to investigate various aspects of school management and compare them across domains such as grade level, urbanicity and demographic characteristics.

SASS data have been used to examine the characteristics and roles of elementary and secondary school principals across sectors in Public and Private School Principals in the United States: A Statistical Profile, 1987–88 to 1993–94 (NCES 97455) Link Icon. This report uses data from the 1987–88, 1990–91, and 1993–94 administrations of SASS to examine the factors relating to principals' school management.

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School Choice

In the years since 1993–94, school choice has gained prominence in educational policy considerations. We need to understand more about the types of choice programs available to families and the extent to which families use them. The 1999–2000 SASS includes data on school choice, magnet schools, charter schools and school district oversight of homeschooling.

For background information on the prevalence of various forms of school choice programs, researchers can access a PDF version of the Issue Brief Public School Choice Programs, 1993–94: Availability and Student Participation (NCES 97909) Link Icon based on data from the 1993–94 administration of SASS.

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Teacher Quality

Teacher quality has been a paramount topic of discussion among education researchers in recent years. SASS collects data on teacher demographics, the educational backgrounds of teachers, the subject areas in which teachers were certified to teach and their years of experience teaching. How schools and school districts recruit and retain skilled teachers is also an important aspect of the SASS. Among the new measures included in the survey are: length of practice teaching, duties and support received during the first-year assignment, mentoring information and teacher professional development.

Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: Prevalence of Out-of-Field Teaching 1987–88 to 1999–2000 (NCES 2002603) Link Icon is a response to interest in how well teachers' qualifications match their teaching assignments. Research has called attention to the phenomenon of "out-of-field" teaching, in which teachers are assigned to teach subjects and grade levels for which they have little training. Data from the NCES Schools and Staffing Survey provide a unique opportunity to examine trends in out-of-field teaching over a 13-year period (1987–88 through 1999–2000), as well as across subjects and grade levels. The study includes four approaches to measuring out-of-field teaching and focuses on two definitions of out-of-field teaching: teachers without a major and certification in-field and teachers without an in-field major, minor or certification.

Measuring Teacher Qualifications (NCES 199904) Link Icon identifies existing and potential measures of teacher qualifications as a single aspect of teacher quality. The paper examines the types of teacher qualification measures, sources of data, the availability and quality of data collected from these sources and the feasibility of obtaining data on teacher assessment scores. Researchers may find this working paper helpful in constructing questionnaires of their own on teacher quality. Researchers may also want to refer to Qualifications of the Public School Teacher Workforce: 1988 and 1991 (NCES 95665) Link Icon for background information on out-of-field teaching.

On-going, effective professional development is crucial to meeting the needs of a changing student population. Researchers may find Toward Better Teaching: Professional Development in 1993–94 (NCES 98230) Link Icon a useful analysis of various aspects of professional development.

Resources for Researchers Using SASS Data

The SASS and TFS questionnaires can be downloaded in PDF format from the Questionnaires page.

Researchers can download A Research Agenda for the 1999–2000 Schools and Staffing Survey (NCES 200010) Link Icon and the Secondary Use of the Schools and Staffing Survey Data (NCES 199917) Link Icon which lists papers presented or published by researchers outside of NCES. For questions about SASS, email sassdata@ed.gov.


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