NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

NCES Celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride Month

June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and NCES is proud to share some of the work we have undertaken to collect data on the characteristics and well-being of sexual and gender minority (SGM) populations. Inclusion of questions about sexual orientation (SO) and gender identity (GI) on federal surveys allows for better understanding of SGM populations relative to the general population. These data meet critical needs to understand trends within larger population groups, and insights can lead to potential resources and interventions needed to better serve the community. Giving respondents the opportunity to describe themselves and bring their “whole self” to a questionnaire helps them to be seen and heard by researchers and policymakers.

Sometimes, we get asked why questions like this appear on an education survey. They can be sensitive questions for some people, after all. We ask these questions to be able to understand equity and outcomes related to education for these demographic characteristics, just as we do for other demographic information like race, ethnicity, household income, and what part of the country a student lives in. And just as for other demographic and background information, it is possible to have minority subgroups that might have different experiences than other subgroups. By sexual minorities, we mean people who report their sexual orientation to be something other than straight or heterosexual, and by gender minorities, we mean people whose sex as recorded at birth is different from their gender.

Over the past 10 years, NCES has researched how to best ask respondents about their sexual orientation and gender identity, how respondents react to these questions, and the quality of data that NCES has collected in questionnaires and datasets that include sexual identity and gender data.

At NCES, several studies include background questions for adults about their sexual orientation and gender identity. These are the High School Longitudinal Study: 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-up in 2016, the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B) 08/18 and 16/21 collections, the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) in 2020, and the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) 2020/22. The collection of these data allows NCES to describe the experiences of gender and sexual minority individuals. For example:

  • In 2020, students who identified as genderqueer, gender nonconforming, or a different identity had difficulty finding safe and stable housing at three times the rate (9 percent) of students who identified as male or female (3 percent each).1
  • In 2018, about 10 years after completing a 2007–08 bachelor’s degree, graduates who were gender minorities2 described their financial situations. Graduates who were gender minorities were less likely to own a home (31 percent) or hold a retirement account (74 percent) than graduates who were not gender minorities (63 percent and 87 percent, respectively) (figure 1).3
  • For 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates with a full-time job in 2018, straight people reported higher average salaries than either lesbian/gay or bisexual people.    
  • In the 2017–18 school year, 18 percent of public schools had a recognized student group that promoted the acceptance of students’ sexual orientation and gender identity, such as a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). This was an increase from the 2015–16 school year, in which 12 percent of schools reported having a GSA.4

Figure 1. Percentage of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients who owned a home, had a retirement account, reported negative net worth, and did not meet essential expenses in the past 12 months, by gender minority status in 2018

Bar chart showing the percentage of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients who owned a home, had a retirement account, reported negative net worth, and did not meet essential expenses in the past 12 months, by gender minority status in 2018

NOTE: “Retirement account” includes both employer-based retirement accounts such as 401(k), 403(b), and pensions, and non-employer-based retirement accounts such as individual retirement accounts. Respondents are considered to have negative net worth if they would still be in debt after selling all their major possessions, turning all their investments and other assets into cash, and paying off as many debts as they could. “Did not meet essential expenses” refers to being unable to meet essential living expenses such as mortgage or rent payments, utility bills, or important medical care. “Past 12 months” refers to any of the 12 months preceding the interview. Gender minority indicates whether the respondent’s gender identity differed from the sex assigned at birth. Gender identity categories include male; female; transgender, male-to-female; transgender, female-to-male; genderqueer or gender nonconforming; a different gender identity; and more than one gender identity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/18).


NCES is committed to collecting data about equity in education and describing the experiences of SGM students, graduates, and educators.

To learn more about the research conducted at NCES and across the federal statistical system on the measurement of SOGI, please visit https://nces.ed.gov/FCSM/SOGI.asp.

 

By Maura Spiegelman and Elise Christopher, NCES


[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2019–20 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:20, preliminary data).

[2] On the NCES surveys mentioned above, gender identity categories include male; female; transgender, male-to-female; transgender, female-to-male; genderqueer or gender nonconforming; a different gender identity; and more than one gender identity.

[3] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2008/18 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/18).

[4] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015–16 and 2017–18 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS).

Announcing the Condition of Education 2022 Release

NCES is pleased to present the 2022 edition of the Condition of Education. The Condition is part of a 150-year tradition at NCES and provides historical and contextual perspectives on key measures of educational progress to Congress and the American public. This report uses data from across NCES and from other sources and is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor the latest developments and trends in U.S. education.

Cover of Report on the Condition of Education with IES logo and photos of children reading and writing

The foundation of the Condition of Education is a series of online indicators. Fifty-two of these indicators include content that has been updated this year. Each indicator provides detailed information on a unique topic, ranging from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. In addition to the online indicator system, a synthesized overview of findings across topics is presented in the Report on the Condition of Education.

This year, we are excited to begin the rollout of interactive figures. These new interactive figures will empower users to explore the data in different ways. A selection of these indicators are highlighted here. They show various declines in enrollment that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic, from early childhood through postsecondary education. (Click the links below to explore the new interactive figures!)

  • From 2019 to 2020, enrollment rates of young children fell by 6 percentage points for 5-year-olds (from 91 to 84 percent) and by 13 percentage points for 3- to 4-year-olds (from 54 to 40 percent).
  • Public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 12 dropped from 50.8 million in fall 2019 to 49.4 million students in fall 2020. This 3 percent drop brought total enrollment back to 2009 levels (49.4 million), erasing a decade of steady growth.
  • At the postsecondary level, total undergraduate enrollment decreased by 9 percent from fall 2009 to fall 2020 (from 17.5 million to 15.9 million students). For male and female students, enrollment patterns exhibited similar trends between 2009 and 2019 (both decreasing by 5 percent). However, from 2019 to 2020, female enrollment fell 2 percent, while male enrollment fell 7 percent. Additionally, between 2019 and 2020, undergraduate enrollment fell 5 percent at public institutions and 2 percent at private nonprofit institutions. In contrast, undergraduate enrollment at for-profit institutions was 4 percent higher in fall 2020 than in fall 2019, marking the first positive single year change in enrollments at these institutions since 2010. Meanwhile, at the postbaccalaureate level, enrollment increased by 10 percent between fall 2009 and fall 2020 (from 2.8 million to 3.1 million students).
  • Educational attainment is associated with economic outcomes, such as employment and earnings, as well as with changes in these outcomes during the pandemic. Compared with 2010, employment rates among 25- to 34-year-olds were higher in 2021 only for those with a bachelor’s or higher degree (84 vs 86 percent). For those who had completed high school and those with some college, employment rates increased from 2010 to 2019, but these gains were reversed to 68 and 75 percent, respectively, during the coronavirus pandemic. For those who had not completed high school, the employment rate was 53 percent in 2021, which was not measurably different from 2019 or 2010.

This year’s Condition also includes two spotlight indicators. These spotlights use data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) to examine education during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Homeschooled Children and Reasons for HomeschoolingThis spotlight opens with an examination of historical trends in homeschooling, using data from the National Household Education Survey (NHES). Then, using HPS, this spotlight examines the percentage of adults with students under 18 in the home who were homeschooled during the 2020–21 school year. Some 6.8 percent of adults with students in the home reported that at least one child was homeschooled in 2020–21. The percentage was higher for White adults (7.4 percent) than for Black adults (5.1 percent) and for Asian adults (3.6 percent). It was also higher for Hispanic adults (6.5 percent) than for Asian adults.
  • Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Fall Plans for Postsecondary Education: This spotlight uses HPS data to examine changes in plans for fall 2021 postsecondary education made in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among adults 18 years old and over who had household members planning to take classes in fall 2021 from a postsecondary institution, 44 percent reported that there was no change for any household member in their fall plans for postsecondary classes. This is compared with 28 percent who reported no change in plans for at least one household member one year earlier in the pandemic, for fall 2020.

The Condition also includes an At a Glance section, which allows readers to quickly make comparisons within and across indicators, as well as a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources that provide additional information to help place the indicators in context. In addition, each indicator references the source data tables that were used to produce that indicator. Most of these are in the Digest of Education Statistics.

In addition to publishing the Condition of Education, NCES produces a wide range of other reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public about significant trends and topics in education. More information about the latest activities and releases at NCES may be found on our website or by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

By Peggy G. Carr, NCES Commissioner

You’ve Been Asked to Participate in a Study

Dear reader,

You’ve been asked to participate in a study.

. . . I know what you’re thinking. Oh, great. Another request for my time. I am already so busy.

Hmm, if I participate, what is my information going to be used for? Well, the letter says that collecting data from me will help researchers study education, and it says something else about how the information I provide would “inform education policy . . .”

But what does that mean?

If you’re a parent, student, teacher, school administrator, or district leader, you may have gotten a request like this from me or a colleague at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES is one of 13 federal agencies that conducts survey and assessment research in order to help federal, state, and local policymakers better understand public needs and challenges. It is the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED’s) statistical agency and fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report statistics on the condition of American education. The law also directs NCES to do the same about education across the globe.

But how does my participation in a study actually support the role Congress has given NCES?

Good question. When NCES conducts a study, participants are asked to provide information about themselves, their students or child/children, teachers, households, classrooms, schools, colleges, or other education providers. What exactly you will be asked about is based on many considerations, including previous research or policy needs. For example, maybe a current policy might be based on results from an earlier study, and we need to see if the results are still relevant. Maybe the topic has not been studied before and data are needed to determine policy options. In some cases, Congress has charged NCES with collecting data for them to better understand education in general.

Data collected from participants like you are combined so that research can be conducted at the group level. Individual information is not the focus of the research. Instead, NCES is interested in the experiences of groups of people or groups of institutions—like schools—based on the collected data. To protect respondents, personally identifiable information like your name (and other information that could identify you personally) is removed before data are analyzed and is never provided to others. This means that people who participate in NCES studies are grouped in different ways, such as by age or type of school attended, and their information is studied to identify patterns of experiences that people in these different groups may have had.

Let’s take a look at specific examples that show how data from NCES studies provide valuable information for policy decisions.

When policymakers are considering how data can inform policy—either in general or for a specific law under consideration—data from NCES studies play an important role. For example, policymakers concerned that students in their state/district/city often struggle to pay for college may be interested in this question:

“What can education data tell me about how to make college more affordable?”

Or policymakers further along in the law development process might have more specific ideas about how to help low-income students access college. They may have come across research linking programs such as dual enrollment—when high school students take college courses—to college access for underrepresented college students. An example of this research is provided in the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) dual-enrollment report produced by ED’s Institute for Education Sciences (IES), which shows that dual-enrollment programs are effective at increasing students’ access to and enrollment in college and attainment of degrees. This was found to be the case especially for students typically underrepresented in higher education.   

Then, these policymakers might need more specific questions answered about these programs, such as:

What is the benefit of high school students from low-income households also taking college courses?”

Thanks to people who participate in NCES studies, we have the data to address such policy questions. Rigorous research using data from large datasets, compiled from many participants, can be used to identify differences in outcomes between groups. In the case of dual-enrollment programs, college outcomes for dual-enrollment participants from low-income households can be compared with those of dual-enrollment participants from higher-income households, and possible causes of those differences can be investigated.

The results of these investigations may then inform enactment of laws or creation of programs to support students. In the case of dual enrollment, grant programs might be set up at the state level for districts and schools to increase students’ local access to dual-enrollment credit earning.

This was very close to what happened in 2012, when I was asked by analysts in ED’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development to produce statistical tables with data on students’ access to career and technical education (CTE) programs. Research, as reviewed in the WWC dual-enrollment report, was already demonstrating the benefits of dual enrollment for high school students. Around 2012, ED was considering a policy that would fund the expansion of dual enrollment specifically for CTE. The reason I was asked to provide tables on the topic was my understanding of two important NCES studies, the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) and the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09). Data provided by participants in those studies were ideal for studying the question. The tables were used to evaluate policy options. Based on the results, ED, through the President, made a budget request to Congress to support dual-enrollment policies. Ultimately, dual-enrollment programs were included in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V).  

The infographic below shows that this scenario—in which NCES data provided by participants like you were used to provide information about policy—has happened on different scales for different policies many times over the past few decades. The examples included are just some of those from the NCES high school longitudinal studies. NCES data have been used countless times in its 154-year history to improve education for American students. Check out the full infographic (PDF) with other examples.


Excerpt of full infographic showing findings and actions for NCES studies on Equity, Dropout Prevention, and College and Career Readiness


However, it’s not always the case that a direct line can be drawn between data from NCES studies and any one policy. Research often informs policy indirectly by educating policymakers and the public they serve on critical topics. Sometimes, as in the dual-enrollment and CTE programs research question I investigated, it can take time before policy gets enacted or a new program rolls out. This does not lessen the importance of the research, nor the vital importance of the data participants provide that underpin it.

The examples in the infographic represent experiences of actual individuals who took the time to tell NCES about themselves by participating in a study.  

If you are asked to participate in an NCES study, please consider doing so. People like you, schools like yours, and households in your town do matter—and by participating, you are helping to inform decisions and improve education across the country.

 

By Elise Christopher, NCES

Measuring “Traditional” and “Non-Traditional” Student Success in IPEDS: Data Insights from the IPEDS Outcome Measures (OM) Survey Component

This blog post is the second in a series highlighting the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Outcome Measures (OM) survey component. The first post introduced a new resource page that helps data reporters and users understand OM and how it compares to the Graduation Rates (GR) and Graduation Rates 200% (GR200) survey components. Using data from the OM survey component, this post provides key findings about the demographics and college outcomes of undergraduates in the United States and is designed to spark further study of student success using OM data.

What do Outcome Measures cohorts look like?

OM collects student outcomes for all entering degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates, including non-first-time (i.e., transfer-in) and part-time students. Students are separated into eight subcohorts by entering status (i.e., first-time or non-first-time), attendance status (i.e., full-time or part-time), and Pell Grant recipient status.1 Figure 1 shows the number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates in each OM subcohort from 2009–10 to 2012–13, by institutional level.2

Key takeaways:

  • Across all cohort years, the majority of students were not first-time, full-time (FTFT) students, a group typically referred to as “traditional” college students. At 2-year institutions, 36 percent of Pell Grant recipients and 16 percent of non-Pell Grant recipients were FTFT in 2012–13. At 4-year institutions, 43 percent of Pell Grant recipients and 44 percent of non-Pell Grant recipients were FTFT in 2012–13.
  • Pell Grant recipient cohorts have become less “traditional” over time. In 2012–13, some 36 percent of Pell Grant recipients at 2-year institutions were FTFT, down 5 percentage points from 2009–10 (41 percent). At 4-year institutions, 43 percent of Pell Grant recipients were FTFT in 2012–13, down 5 percentage points from 2009–10 (48 percent).

Figure 1. Number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students in the adjusted cohort, by Pell Grant recipient status, institutional level, and entering and attendance status: 2009–10 to 2012–13 adjusted cohorts

Stacked bar chart showing the number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students by Pell Grant recipient status (recipients and non-recipients), institutional level (2-year and 4-year), and entering and attendance status (first-time/full-time, first-time/part-time, non-first-time/full-time, and non-first-time/part-time) for 2009–10 to 2012–13 adjusted cohorts

NOTE: This figure presents data collected from Title IV degree-granting institutions in the United States. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Outcome Measures component final data (2017­–19) and provisional data (2020).


What outcomes does Outcome Measures collect?

The OM survey component collects students’ highest credential earned (i.e., certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s) at 4,3 6, and 8 years after entry. Additionally, for students who did not earn a credential by the 8-year status point, the survey component collects an enrollment status outcome (i.e., still enrolled at the institution, enrolled at another institution, or enrollment status unknown). Figure 2 shows these outcomes for the 2012–13 adjusted cohort.

Key takeaways:

  • The percentage of students earning an award (i.e., certificate, associate’s, or bachelor’s) was higher at each status point, with the greatest change occurring between the 4- and 6-year status points (a 7-percentage point change, from 32 percent to 39 percent).
  • At the 8-year status point, more than a quarter of students were still enrolled in higher education: 26 percent had “transferred-out” to enroll at another institution and 1 percent were still enrolled at their original institution. This enrollment status outcome fills an important gap left by the GR200 survey component, which does not collect information on students who do not earn an award 8 years after entry.

Figure 2. Number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students, by award and enrollment status and entry status point: 2012–13 adjusted cohort

Waffle chart showing award status (certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, and did not receive award) and enrollment status (still enrolled at institution, enrolled at another institution, and enrollment status unknown) of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students, by status point (4-year, 6-year, and 8-year) for 2012–13 adjusted cohort

NOTE: One square represents 1 percent. This figure presents data collected from Title IV degree-granting institutions in the United States.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Outcome Measures component provisional data (2020).


How do Outcome Measures outcomes vary across student subgroups?

Every data element collected by the OM survey component (e.g., cohort counts, outcomes by time after entry) can be broken down into eight subcohorts based on entering, attendance, and Pell Grant recipient statuses. In addition to these student characteristics, data users can also segment these data by key institutional characteristics such as sector, Carnegie Classification, special mission (e.g., Historically Black College or University), and region, among others.4 Figure 3 displays the status of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates 8 years after entry by each student subcohort within the broader 2012–13 degree/certificate-seeking cohort.

Key takeaways:

  • Of the eight OM subcohorts, FTFT non-Pell Grant recipients had the highest rate of earning an award or still being enrolled 8 years after entry. Among this subcohort, 18 percent had an unknown enrollment status 8 years after entry.
  • Among both Pell Grant recipients and non-Pell Grant recipients, full-time students had a higher rate than did part-time students of earning an award or still being enrolled 8 years after entry.
  • First-time, part-time (FTPT) students had the lowest rate of the subcohorts of earning a bachelor’s degree. One percent of FTPT Pell Grant recipients and 2 percent of FTPT non-Pell Grant recipients had earned a bachelor’s degree by the 8-year status point.

Figure 3. Number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students 8 years after entry, by Pell Grant Recipient status, entering and attendance status, and award and enrollment status: 2012–13 adjusted cohort

Horizontal stacked bar chart showing award (certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s) and enrollment statuses (still enrolled at institution, enrolled at another institution, and enrollment status unknown) of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students by Pell Grant recipient status (recipients and non-recipients), institutional level (2-year and 4-year), and entering and attendance status (first-time/full-time, first-time/part-time, non-first-time/full-time, and non-first-time/part-time) for 2012–13 adjusted cohort

 

NOTE: This figure presents data collected from Title IV degree-granting institutions in the United States. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Outcome Measures component provisional data (2020).


How do Outcome Measures outcomes vary over time?

OM data are comparable across 4 cohort years.5 Figure 4 shows outcomes of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates 8 years after entry from the 2009–10 cohort through the 2012–13 cohort for so-called “traditional” (i.e., FTFT) and “non-traditional” (i.e., non-FTFT) students.

Key takeaways:

  • For both traditional and non-traditional students, the percentage of students earning an award was higher for the 2012–13 cohort than for the 2009–10 cohort, climbing from 47 percent to 51 percent for traditional students and from 32 percent to 35 percent for non-traditional students.
  • The growth in award attainment for traditional students was driven by the share of students earning bachelor’s degrees (30 percent for the 2009–10 cohort vs. 35 percent for the 2012–13 cohort).
  • The growth in award attainment for non-traditional students was driven by the share of students earning both associate’s degrees (15 percent for the 2009–10 cohort vs. 16 percent for the 2012–13 cohort) and bachelor’s degrees (13 percent for the 2009–10 cohort vs. 15 percent for the 2012–13 cohort).

Figure 4. Number and percentage distribution of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students 8 years after entry, by first-time, full-time (FTFT) status and award and enrollment status: 2009–10 to 2012–13 adjusted cohorts

Stacked bar chart showing award status (certificate, associate’s, and bachelor’s) and enrollment status (still enrolled at institution, enrolled at another institution, and enrollment status unknown) of degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students 8 years after entry by first-time, full-time status (traditional or first-time, full-time students and non-traditional or non-first-time, full-time students) for 2009–10 to 2012–13 adjusted cohorts

NOTE: This figure presents data collected from Title IV degree-granting institutions in the United States. “Non-traditional” (i.e., non-first-time, full-time) students include first-time, part-time, non-first-time, full-time, and non-first-time, part-time subcohorts. Percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Outcome Measures component final data (2017–2019) and provisional data (2020).


To learn more about the IPEDS OM survey component, visit the Measuring Student Success in IPEDS: Graduation Rates (GR), Graduation Rates 200% (GR200), and Outcome Measures (OM) resource page and the OM survey component webpage. Go to the IPEDS Use the Data page to explore IPEDS data through easy-to-use web tools, access data files to conduct your own analyses like those presented in this blog post, or view OM web tables.  

By McCall Pitcher, AIR


[1] The Federal Pell Grant Program (Higher Education Act of 1965, Title IV, Part A, Subpart I, as amended) provides grant assistance to eligible undergraduate postsecondary students with demonstrated financial need to help meet education expenses.

[2] Due to the 8-year measurement lag between initial cohort enrollment and student outcome reporting for the Outcome Measures survey component, the most recent cohort for which data are publicly available is 2012–13. Prior to the 2009–10 cohort, OM did not collect cohort subgroups by Pell Grant recipient status. Therefore, this analysis includes data only for the four most recent cohorts.

[3] The 4-year status point was added in the 2017–18 collection.

[4] Data users can explore available institutional variables on the IPEDS Use the Data webpage.

[5] For comparability purposes, this analysis relies on data from the 2017–18 collection (reflecting the 2009–10 adjusted cohort) through the 2020–21 collection (reflecting the 2012–13 adjusted cohort). Prior to the 2017–18 collection, OM cohorts were based on a fall term for academic reporters and a full year for program reporters.

Introducing NCES’s New Locale-Focused Resource Hub: Education Across America

NCES is excited to announce the release of a resource hub that focuses on data by geographic locale—Education Across America: Cities, Suburbs, Towns, and Rural Areas—using a three-phased approach. Released today, Phase I of this new resource hub involves the consolidation of locale-focused data across NCES surveys and programs and makes updates to the latest data available. The result of this work is 140 tables with data disaggregated by all four locales (i.e., cities, suburbs, towns, and rural areas). These tables cover a wide range of topics grouped into broad themes: family characteristics, educational experiences, school resources and staffing, and educational outcomes. Phases II and III will focus on rural areas and involve summarizing findings in text.

To make these data more relevant and useful, NCES adopted a pyramid approach1 to attend to various user segments with tiered products (exhibit 1). Source tables containing data disaggregated by locale form the base of the pyramid. These tables, which contain the most detailed statistical information about education in each locale, target data-savvy users such as researchers.


Exhibit 1. Tiered Approach to Products in Education Across America Resource Hub

Infographic showing pyramid with five levels of NCES products; from bottom to top: source tables, indicators, thematic summaries, briefs, and digital media


The next level is indicators. These indicators, comprising text and figures, will supply in-depth analyses that focus on rural areas. In order to make our data relevant and useful, literature review and focused groups were conducted to identify the topics that are important to education in rural areas. The target audience for these indicators is those who are looking for comprehensive discussions on specific topics in rural education.

The middle level of the pyramid is thematic summaries. These summaries synthesize findings across multiple indicators grouped together by a theme. In addition to thematic summaries, we will create a spotlight that focuses on distant and remote rural areas because these areas are confronted with unique challenges and are of particular policy interest. These products target education leaders in higher education and at the state and local levels.

The next level of the pyramid is briefs, which includes an executive summary on key findings about rural education and an at-a-glance resource that highlights important statistics about schools and students in rural areas. These products are designed as quick reads and target nontechnical audiences—such as state and local education leaders, associations, and policymakers—as well as individuals with an interest in education—such as educators and parents.

The final level of the pyramid is digital media, which includes blogs and social media posts that highlight key findings and resources available in the Education Across America resource hub. These products are designed to connect the media, parents, and educators with information on educational experiences across America.

Phase II involves the development of 5 to 10 indicators focused on the experience of schools and students in rural areas and is expected to be completed in June 2022. Phase III—which is expected to be completed in October 2022—consists of the development of the remaining indicators as well as the products in the thematic summaries and briefs tiers.

Check out our locale-focused research hub, Education Across America, today. Be sure to check back over the summer and fall to explore the hub as we release new products focusing on education in rural areas.

 

By Xiaolei Wang, Ph.D., NCES; and Jodi Vallaster, Ed.D., NCES


[1] Schwabish, J. (2019). “Use the Pyramid Philosophy’ to Better Communicate Your Research.” Urban Institute. https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/use-pyramid-philosophy-better-communicate-your-research; Scanlan, C. (2003). “Writing from the Top Down: Pros and Cons of the Inverted Pyramid.” Poynter. https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2003/writing-from-the-top-down-pros-and-cons-of-the-inverted-pyramid/