# NCES Blog

### National Center for Education Statistics

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

While most of NCES’ products are designed for education stakeholders such as teachers, school administrators, and researchers, the Kids' Zone is designed for use by some of our most important consumers - students! The Kids' Zone contains features such as a dice game that helps students learn about probability and statistics, links to online tools where students can find information on their school, and a graph creation tool.

According to the graph above, which element forms the second greatest portion of the earth’s crust?

1. Oxygen
2. Silicon
3. Aluminum
4. Iron
5. Calcium

Create a Graph can be used by teachers and students. In fact, Create a Graph is one of the most frequently visited pages on the NCES website. Using this tool, you can create bar graphs, line graphs, pie graphs, area graphs, or you can choose an XY plot in order to plot individual points. For example, everyone in class could answer a series of questions using Dare to Compare. Then, the class could calculate what percentage of the class responded correctly to certain items and graph that percentage along with the percentage of students who answered the question correctly in different regions of the U.S., or different countries. We encourage you to join us in celebrating World Statistics Day on October 20, 2015 by planning a fun activity, such as the one suggest above, using the NCES Kids' Zone. Follow us on Twitter @EdNCES for other ideas and announcements about World Statistics Day.

There are a lot of fun features on the NCES Kids' Zone – so go ahead and explore!

By Heidi Silver-Pacuilla

Categories of educational attainment – or highest degree earned – are often used in social science research as an indicator of a person’s knowledge and skills. This measure is objective and readily available, easily understood by survey respondents as well as by consumers of research and survey data, strongly tied to policies (such as those promoting high school graduation and college completion rates), and widely used in the labor market by employers. Moreover, strong connections between educational attainment and positive life outcomes, such as employment, earnings, health, and civic engagement, are well established.

Yet, this measure is an imprecise indicator of the amount of knowledge and skills an individual acquired during the years of education it took to complete the degree. It also masks variation across individuals and programs of study. In addition, adults continue to acquire skills and knowledge from a variety of sources and activities over their lifetimes after completing a degree, while on the job or through employer-sponsored training, continuing education, family and household management, hobbies and interests, etc. Adults also lose fluency with skills that are not put to regular use.

The Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) survey[i] provides direct measures of working-age adults’ cognitive skills based on their performance on literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving tasks set in real-life contexts. Performance is reported on a scale of 1-5 for literacy and numeracy and a scale of 1-3 for problem solving. It pairs these measures with a background questionnaire that asks about the use of skills at work and in daily life, work history, and other social, behavioral, and demographic indicators.

### Percentage of adults age 16 to 65 at each level of proficiency on the PIAAC literacy scale, by highest level of educational attainment: 2012

# Rounds to zero
NOTE: Percentages of adults age 16 to 65 by highest level of educational attainment appear in parentheses. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), 2012.

The direct measures of cognitive skills offer researchers the ability to study actual skills rather than only using attainment of a particular degree as a general indicator of skills, and to investigate how those assessed skills relate to behaviors and life outcomes. To illustrate how directly measured skills and educational attainment are not always aligned, we can compare direct performance to highest degrees earned. In the United States, of all adults who have attained only a high school degree, 20% performed in the lowest levels (Level 1 and Below Level 1) of literacy, while 7% of adults with an associate’s degree and 5% of those with a bachelor’s degree performed at this level. At the same time, the results showed that 6% of adults with no more than a high school diploma, 14% with only an associate’s degree, and 24% with a bachelor’s degree have very high literacy skills, at Level 4 or 5 on the same scale. See the full range of educational attainment and skill performance in literacy in the chart above.

Findings such as this can help inform policy, interventions, and communication strategies to better meet the needs of the recipients.

[i] The PIAAC survey is coordinated internationally by the OECD. NCES implements PIAAC in the United States. Results were first released in October 2013 with data from 23 countries. It is a household survey administered by trained data collectors to a nationally-representative sample of adults, ages 16 through 65, in each country, in the official language(s), and in most cases, in respondents’ homes on a laptop computer.

In the United States, the survey was first administered in 2012 and additional results, based on an expanded sample, will be released in 2015-2016. To learn more about the U.S. administration and reporting of the survey, as well as related data tools, see https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/.

By Amy Ho and Chelsea Owens

Teachers and principals form the foundation of the educational process, but there are not a lot of nationally representative, federal data on the characteristics and experiences of these key staff. The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) has historically been one of the few federal data collections in this area. Since 1987, SASS has provided important data to researchers, policymakers, and leaders in education to help answer critical questions about schools, teachers, principals, and students, including:

• How well prepared and supported are new teachers?
• What do principals consider as their most important goal?
• Have the characteristics of the principal and teacher workforces changed over time?

As one of the few large scale data collection efforts that directly surveys teachers and principals about their own experiences, SASS has historically served as the nation’s primary data source for information on topics such as teachers’ and principals’ demographic characteristics, teachers’ attitudes about teaching and school conditions, teachers’ qualifications, and teachers’ experiences with intimidation or violence in schools.

While the information obtained from SASS has been an important contribution to our knowledge of the experiences of teachers and principals, changes to the structure of teaching and the desire to better align multiple data collection efforts led NCES to revise the existing SASS instrument. Therefore, NCES launched a redesign of this data collection effort. The new survey, the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) includes updated features such as revised questions that can address pressing topics in the field (e.g., use of technology in the classroom, teacher and principal evaluations, etc.).

The NTPS will be administered for the first time this coming school year (2015-16) and will be conducted every two years in order to provide timely data. There are four main components of the NTPS: School Questionnaire, Principal Questionnaire, Teacher Listing Form, and Teacher Questionnaire. In late August, NCES sent out the first questionnaires to a sample of American schools. A school selected to participate in the NTPS will represent thousands of other schools in the nation.

The School Questionnaire asks about length of the school day, how difficult it is to fill vacancies at the school, and community-service graduation requirements. The Principal Questionnaire asks questions on parent/guardian involvement, how often problems such as bullying and gang activities occur, how teachers and principals are evaluated, and principals’ top goals. The Teacher Questionnaire includes questions involving teacher satisfaction, use of instructional software in the classroom, teacher perceptions of autonomy, and experiences during teachers’ first year of teaching.

The participation of teachers, principals, and other staff in the 2015-16 NTPS will greatly help policymakers and leaders in education improve schools for our students, teachers, and principals by looking at the current status of these issues.  In the United States, the needs and challenges facing each school are sometimes vastly different, but the NTPS data can provide information for meeting these needs.

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

For many students and their families, a college education is seen as an investment in the future. But like all investments, the initial sacrifices can seem burdensome and the future is uncertain. NCES seeks to help students and their families make good decisions by providing access to timely information about the price of college and the availability of financial aid. The NCES College Navigator web site provides an array of search tools to help students locate institutions that meet their financial needs and academic interests. Additionally, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires the U.S. Department of Education to report  current information and recent changes in net prices for college attendance, and tuition and fees charges at different types of institutions. Data on high and low cost institutions are published on the College Affordability and Transparency Center website. These sites can help students and their families make informed decisions about their most affordable options.

NCES recently released a report that examines the total, net, and out-of-pocket prices by type of institution in 2011-12. Although it is presented for institutions at an aggregate level, rather than for individual institutions, this report provides valuable information on the average prices for different types of degree-granting colleges, including breakdowns for students from families with different income levels. Overall, students at public 2-year colleges had the lowest average total price of attendance in 2011-12 at \$15,000. Public 4-year institutions had the lowest average total price (\$23,200) among 4-year colleges, and the average price of attendance at 4-year for-profit institutions was \$29,300.  The average total price was highest at private non-profit 4-year institutions (\$43,500); however, 4-year private nonprofit schools also awarded the most grant money and had the greatest percentage of students who received grants.

Factoring in financial aid, such as grants, loans, and work study, reduces the out-of-pocket costs that students and their families pay at various institutions. As a result, many full-time students pay less than the advertised total price of attendance. The out-of-pocket net price of attendance is based on the total price of attendance, but also accounts for the amount of grant and loan aid that students typically receive. Additionally, because many sources of aid are based on students’ financial need, there are differences in the out-of-pocket net price of attendance for dependent students from lower and higher income families.

Overall, students at public 2-year colleges had the lowest out-of-pocket net price (after grants and loans) at \$9,900 in 2011-12. The average out-of-pocket net price was \$11,800 at public 4-year institutions and \$15,000 at for-profit institutions. The largest difference between total price of attendance and out-of-pocket net price was at private nonprofit 4-year institutions, with the out-of-pocket net price (\$18,100) being about \$25,400 less than the average total price.

Across all types of institutions, dependent students from lower income families (the lowest quarter of family incomes) had the lowest out-of-pocket net price. The average out-of-pocket net price for students from lower income families was \$7,500 at public 2-year institutions, \$7,100 at public 4-year institutions, \$11,000 at private nonprofit institutions, and \$15,000 at private for-profit institutions. In contrast, students from families in the top quarter of incomes had average out-of-pocket costs of \$13,100 at public 2-year institutions, \$16,800 at public 4-year institutions, \$26,600 at private nonprofit institutions, and \$22,300 at private for-profit institutions.

For more information on the total, net, and out-of-pocket prices by type of institution, please download the entire report: What is the Price of College: Total, Net, and Out-of-Pocket Prices by Type of Institution in 2011-12, or watch the video below.

By Grace Kena

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, is a working group of Federal agencies that collect, analyze, and report data on issues related to the well-being of children and their families. The Forum on Child and Family Statistics’ mission is to promote coordination and collaboration among member agencies and to improve efforts to collect and report Federal data on children and families. This forum is unique in that it compiles key findings across many domains of children’s lives.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has been involved with the Forum on Child and Family Statistics since the early stages of its development. Founded in 1994, the Forum on Child and Family Statistics was formally established by Executive Order No. 13045 in 1997. The Forum’s main activity is to produce the report, America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, which is a collection of national indicators of child well-being. Through the report, the Forum aims to improve the reporting of Federal data on children and families; make these data available in an easy-to-use, nontechnical format; and stimulate discussions among policymakers and the public, and between the statistical and policy communities.

Using Federal data, the America’s Children series presents a set of key indicators on aspects of children’s lives that measure their well-being and influence the likelihood that a child will become a well-educated, economically secure, productive, and healthy adult. While there are many, interrelated aspects of children’s well-being, America’s Children reports on seven major domains:  family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, and health. Currently, 23 agencies contribute to the report, including NCES, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Economic Research Service, the U. S. Census Bureau, and the National Center for Health Statistics and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The Forum on Child and Family Statistics has published the America’s Children report since 1997. Beginning in 2004, the Forum started producing a brief report, America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being in even-numbered years; the full report is still published in odd years. Although this shortened version of the report focuses on selected indicators, data for all indicators are updated on the website each year. In 2014, the Forum published a one-time, special issue report titled America’s Young Adults. In addition to producing reports, the Forum collaborates with partner and other organizations on a number of research projects and in supporting conferences, workshops, and policy seminars. Most recently, NCES experts participated in a day-long workshop on Measuring and Reporting Social-Emotional Development in Early Childhood. NCES experts also authored the 2013 special feature on the academic knowledge and skills of kindergarten students using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K: 2011).

The 2015 America’s Children report shows several improvements in children’s well-being. The number of babies born prematurely has continued to decline, and recently, the percentage of children with asthma has decreased. High school completion rates have increased, particularly for Hispanic students. On the other hand, some aspects have not improved. The percentage of children experiencing a major depressive episode has continued to increase over the past several years.

This year’s report also contains a special feature on health care quality, which provides information on well-child and well-adolescent visits, preschool vision screenings, asthma management plans, and access to care.

Learn more about the Forum on Child and Family Statistics and its activities, and the 2015 America’s Children report at the website. Also, tune in to a recent podcast describing findings from the latest report.