NCES collects and reports information on the academic performance of the nation's students as well as the literacy level of the adult population. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is NCES' primary assessment of what American elementary/secondary students know and can do in academic subjects. This NCES program also assesses the proficiency of adults in performing basic literacy and mathematical tasks through the National Assessments of Adult Literacy (NAAL). NCES also participates in international assessments (see international).
The U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES) awarded grants to 41 states and the District of Columbia to aid them in the design and implementation of statewide longitudinal data systems. These systems are intended to enhance the ability of states to efficiently and accurately manage, analyze, and use education data, including individual student records. The data systems developed with funds from these grants should help states, districts, schools, and teachers make data-driven decisions to improve student learning, as well as facilitate research to increase student achievement and close achievement gaps.
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies (ECLS) program is sponsored primarily by NCES in collaboration with other federal agencies and organizations. The ECLS program includes three longitudinal studies that examine child development, school readiness, and early school experiences. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort (ECLS-B) is a study of children born in 2001 who were followed from birth through kindergarten entry. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) is a study of children followed from kindergarten through the eighth grade. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011) is following a sample of children from kindergarten through the fifth grade.
The NCES survey program at the elementary/secondary education level provides information on the condition of public and private education. Through the Common Core of Data (CCD) survey national, state, and local data on public elementary and secondary education is collected. Important additions to NCES' data collection programs in the last decade include the Schools and Staffing Survey, the Private School Universe Survey, and the National Household Education Survey.
Insights into the educational practices and outcomes of the United States are obtained by comparing them with those of other countries. This is achieved through the International Activities Program at NCES, which provides statistical information comparing the educational experiences and trends in other countries to those of the United States. International assessment studies provide answers to questions of how other countries educate their children and with what success. The work that NCES conducts within the International Activities Program is designed to provide comparable indicator data about the activities and outcomes of educational systems and institutions in other nations.
Libraries are an educational resource available to individuals regardless of age, social status, or educational background. The Library Statistics Program sponsors surveys on academic libraries, public libraries, school library media centers, and state library agencies.
The NCES survey program at the postsecondary education level provides statistical information used by planners, policymakers, and educators in addressing a multitude of issues. One major source of this information is the annual Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Survey which provides a variety of data from all public and private institutions in the U.S. and outlying areas that are eligible to receive Title IV funding. Special studies of students, financial aid, postsecondary faculty, and bachelor’s degree recipients, doctoral degree recipients, transcript studies, and various longitudinal studies, complement IPEDS.
In order to fulfill the NCES mission, "…to collect, analyze, and disseminate statistics and other information related to education in the United States and in other nations…," NCES must strive to develop high quality, customer-driven products and to be fully engaged with the education community to gain a full understanding of the data needs and interests of our customers. As such, several activities have been designed to fulfill that part of our mission including a statistical standards program which sets standards for all of NCES' activities.