NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Collecting School-Level Finance Data: An Evaluation From the Pilot School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS)

Policymakers, researchers, and the public have long voiced concerns about the equitable distribution of school funding within and across school districts. More recently, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that states and school districts add per pupil expenditures, disaggregated by source of funds, to their annual report cards for each local education agency (LEA) (e.g., school district) and school. In response to this these requirements, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) developed a new collection of finance data at the school level—the School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS).

The SLFS collects at the school level many of the same expenditure variables currently being collected at the district level on the School District Finance Survey. The pilot SLFS was designed to evaluate whether the survey is a viable, efficient, and cost-effective method to gather school-level finance data. Findings from the pilot survey were recently released in an NCES report titled The Feasibility of Collecting School-Level Finance Data: An Evaluation of Data From the School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS) School Year 2014–15.

Here’s some of what we learned:

 

Many states participating in the SLFS were able to report complete personnel and/or nonpersonnel expenditure data for a high percentage of their schools.

Of the 15 states that participated in the SLFS in school year 2014–15, 9 states were able to report school-level finance data for greater than 95 percent of their operational schools (figure 1). Other than Colorado and New Jersey,[1] all states were able to report SLFS data for at least 84 percent of their schools, ranging from 85 percent in Kentucky to nearly 100 percent in Maine. Just over one-half of reporting states (8 of 15) reported all personnel items (i.e., dollars spent on salaries and wages for teachers, aides, administrators, and support staff) for at least 95 percent of their schools. Seven of 15 states reported all nonpersonnel items (i.e., dollars spent on purchased services, supplies, and other costs not directly related to school employees) for at least 95 percent of their schools.  
 


Figure 1. Percentage of operational schools with fiscal data reported in the SLFS, by participating state: 2014–15

NOTE: This figure includes operational schools only (i.e., excludes closed, inactive, or future LEAs). The count of schools reported includes schools that can be matched to the Common Core of Data (CCD) School Universe files and for which at least one data item is reported in the SLFS.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS),” fiscal year 2015, Preliminary Version 1a; “Local Education Agency Universe Survey,” 2014–15, Provisional Version 1a.



SLFS data are generally comparable and consistent with other sources of school finance data.

A substantial majority of personnel expenditures can be reported at the school level. Personnel expenditures reported for the SLFS were reasonably comparable with the district-level and state-level data.[2] For common personnel expenditures, the absolute percentage difference between the SLFS and the district survey was less than 9 percent in 8 of 10 states (figure 2). The absolute percentage difference between the SLFS and the state-level survey for common personnel expenditures was less than 9 percent in 6 of 10 states.
 


Figure 2. School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS), School District Finance Survey (F-33), and National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS), by participating state: 2014–15

NOTE: Total personnel salaries include instructional staff salaries, student support services salaries, instructional staff support services salaries, and school administration salaries. This figure includes all schools in the SLFS and all LEAs in the F-33. Only states where reporting standards are met are included.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “School-Level Finance Survey (SLFS),” fiscal year 2015, Preliminary Version 1a; “National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS),” fiscal year 2015, Final Version 2a; and “School District Finance Survey (F-33),” fiscal year 2015, Provisional Version 1a.



There are numerous inherent challenges in collecting school-level finance data: 

  • Communicating the vision of why reporting school-level finance data is important to school finance practitioners.
  • The pilot SLFS did not collect all types of current expenditures.
  • Some states had not fully developed standardized protocols or procedures for reporting finance data at the school level. 
  • There are varying legal requirements for the types of schools that are required to report finance data and the types of expenditures schools and districts are required to report.
  • The survey’s data item definitions were not consistent with states’ internal accounting for some items.

During the pilot survey, NCES and Census Bureau staff took action to address these challenges. 

 

Evidence suggests that it is feasible to collect accurate and informative school-level financial data.

States participating in the SLFS are improving internal data systems and protocols, which will allow them to report complete and comparable school-level finance data. The SLFS promotes efficiency by incorporating long-established NCES standards for school district financial accounting. The results of the pilot SLFS survey demonstrate that it is feasible to collect accurate and informative school-level finance data. The informational and analytical value will increase as response rates improve and as states improve their capabilities to collect complete, accurate, and comparable finance data at the school level.

 

By Stephen Q. Cornman, NCES; Malia Howell, Stephen Wheeler, and Osei Ampadu, U.S. Census Bureau; and Lei Zhou, Activate Research


[1] In 2014–15, Colorado did not require all school districts to report finance data at the school level; thus, data is reported for only 26 of Colorado’s 262 LEAs. In New Jersey, school-level finance reporting is required only for its “Abbott” districts, which make up only 31 of the state’s 702 districts.

[2] NCES’s Common Core of Data (CCD) program collects school finance data through three annual surveys: the school-level SLFS, the LEA-level School District Finance Survey (F-33), and the state-level National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS). Five data items are common to all three fiscal surveys (i.e., are collected at the school level for the SLFS, at the LEA level for the F-33, and at the state level for the NPEFS): instructional staff salaries, student support services salaries, instructional staff support services salaries, school administration salaries, and teacher salaries.

 

 

 

Learning to Use the Data: Online Dataset Training Modules

UPDATED Blog: New and Updated Modules Added

NCES provides a wealth of data online for users to access. However, the breadth and depth of the data can be overwhelming to first time users, and, sometimes, even for more experienced users. In order to help our users learn how to access, navigate, and use NCES datasets, we’ve developed a series of online training modules.

The Distance Learning Dataset Training  (DLDT) resource is an online, interactive tool that allows users to learn about NCES data across the education spectrum and evaluate it for suitability for specific  research purposes. The DLDT program at NCES has developed a growing number of online training modules for several NCES complex sample survey and administrative datasets.  The modules teach users about the intricacies of various datasets, including what the data represent, how the data are collected, the sample design, and considerations for analysis to help users in conducting successful analyses. 

The DLDT is also a teaching tool that can be used by individuals both in and out of the classroom to learn about NCES complex sample survey and administrative data collections and appropriate analysis methods.

There are two types of NCES DLDT modules available: common modules and dataset-specific modules. The common modules help users broadly understand NCES data across the education spectrum, introduce complex survey methods, and explain how to acquire NCES micro-data. The dataset-specific modules introduce and educate users about particular datasets. The available modules are listed below and more information can be found on the DLDT website

 

         AVAILABLE DLDT MODULES

Common Modules

  • Introduction to the NCES Distance Learning Dataset Training System
  • Introduction to the NCES Datasets
  • Introduction to NCES Web Gateways: Accessing and Exploring NCES Data
  • Analyzing NCES Complex Survey Data
  • Statistical Analysis of NCES Datasets Employing a Complex Sample Design
  • Acquiring Micro-level NCES Data
  • DataLab Tools: QuickStats, PowerStats, and TrendStats

Dataset-Specific Modules

  • Common Core of Data (CCD)
  • Introduction to MapED
  • Fast Response Survey System (FRSS)
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Birth Cohort (ECLS-B)
  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999 (ECLS-K)
  • Early Secondary Longitudinal Studies (1972 – 2000)
    • National Longitudinal Study of 1972 (NLS-72)
    • High School and Beyond (HS&B)
    • National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88)
  • Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002)
  • High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09)
  • Introduction to High School Transcript Studies
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) – UPDATED!
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)
    • Main, State, and Long-Term Trend NAEP
    • NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS)
    • National Indian Education Study (NIES)
  • National Household Education Survey Program (NHES)
  • National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS) – NEW!
  • Postsecondary Education Sample Survey Datasets
    • National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS)
    • Beginning Postsecondary Student Longitudinal Study (BPS)
    • Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B)
  • Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS)
  • Private School Universe Survey (PSS)
  • Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)
    • Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS)
    • Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS)
    • Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study (BTLS)
  • School Survey On Crime and Safety (SSOCS)
  • International Activities Program Studies Datasets
    • Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)
    • Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) – UPDATED!
    • Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) – UPDATED!
    • Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC)

Modules under Construction

  • Accessing NCES Data via the Web
  • Fast Response Survey System (FRSS)
  • Introduction to the Annual Reports and Information Group
  • NCES Longitudinal Studies
  • NCES High School Transcript Collections
  • Mapping Education Data (MapED)
  • Postsecondary Education Quick Information System (PEQIS)

 

This blog was originally posted on July 12, 2016 and was updated on January 11, 2019.

 

By Andy White

New Data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study

Seventy-two percent of all undergraduate students received some type of financial aid, including loans, in the 2015–16 academic year. For those who received aid, the average was about $12,300 per student. If you want to explore more statistics on student financial aid, you can! NCES has released new data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16). Data users have the ability to generate estimates and perform their own analyses using our online data analysis tools available in DataLab. Users can select the tool that best meets their needs, including PowerStats, QuickStats, and TrendStats.

NPSAS is the most comprehensive nationally representative study of how students and their families finance postsecondary education in the United States. The NPSAS:16 sample consisted of approximately 113,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending 1,800 postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

In addition to information on financial aid, the study collects data on many other topics, such as student demographics, total and net prices of attendance, education-related debt, major field of study, employment while enrolled, and participation in remedial education.

To enhance the data and address emerging policy issues, NCES has also included new and expanded items on these topics in NPSAS:16:

  • Financial literacy, including questions to measure understanding of key financial concepts such as inflation, interest rates, and investment, plus questions on the possible consequences for failing to repay federal student loans;
  • Alternative repayment options for federal loans, including awareness of and plans to use income-driven repayment and public service loan forgiveness;
  • Student veterans and military students, including an oversample of student veterans, measures of federal veterans’ education benefits derived from administrative sources, indicators of whether institutions offer programs targeted to veterans and military students, and new measures of state and institution aid specifically for student veterans; and
  • Study abroad, including the location and duration of time spent abroad.

A First Look report, which was released in January, highlighted key findings from the study. For more information on how the study was planned and conducted, including extensive details on sampling, data collection, response rates, weighting, and other topics, we encourage you to see the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16) Data File Documentation report.

By Tracy Hunt-White

The experiences of our nation’s young children from kindergarten through fourth grade

By Jill Carlivati McCarroll and Gail M. Mulligan

In 2014–15, boys had higher fourth-grade math scores than girls, but no significant differences were found in boys’ versus girls’ fourth-grade reading knowledge and skills. These findings come from the most recent data release for the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). A recently released report provides a first look at the status of students who were in kindergarten for the first time during the 2010-11 school year and were in fourth grade in 2014-15. The longitudinal nature of this study allows for a comparison of trends over time. For example, differences in math scores between boys and girls were also observed in third grade but not in earlier grades. No significant differences in reading results for boys and girls have been detected in any grade between kindergarten and fourth. More data on assessment scores, as well as the demographic and family characteristics of the cohort of students who were first-time kindergartners in 2010-11, are available in the reports.

The series of Early Childhood Longitudinal Studies are consistently some of the most popular NCES studies due in large part to the fact that they provide comprehensive and reliable data on important topics such as child development, school readiness, and early school experiences. The ECLS-K:2011 was designed to provide data that can be used to describe and to better understand children’s development and experiences in the elementary grades, and how children’s early experiences relate to their later development, learning, and experiences in school. The study is longitudinal, meaning that it followed the same group of children over time; in the case of the ECLS-K:2011, children were followed from their kindergarten year (the 2010-11 school year) until the spring of 2016, when most of the children were in the fifth grade.

All planned waves of data through fifth grade have been collected and staff at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) are hard at work releasing reports of the findings as well as the data from all rounds of the study. Researchers, educators, policy makers, and other interested members of the public now have access to much of the important data from the ECLS-K:2011, with additional reports and data releases on their way.

The diverse sample of children who participated in the ECLS-K:2011 is nationally representative of students who were in kindergarten in U.S. schools in the 2010-11 school year. Information on children’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development was collected every year using direct child assessments and surveys for the adults central to the children’s education. Adults surveyed for the study included the children’s parents/guardians, their teachers, their school administrators, and their kindergarten before- and after-school care providers. Topics covered by the surveys included the children’s home environment, home educational activities, school environment, classroom environment, classroom curriculum, teacher qualifications, and before- and after-school care. 

Public-use data from the kindergarten through fourth-grade rounds of the ECLS-K:2011 are now available online. A restricted-use dataset with data from the kindergarten through fourth-grade rounds is also available to qualified researchers with an IES Restricted-use Data License. For information on licensing, please see https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp. The schedule of future data releases is available on the ECLS website.

For more information on the ECLS-K:2011 as well as the other ECLS studies, please see our homepage or email the ECLS study team at ECLS@ed.gov.  

NCES Fast Facts Deliver Data to Your Door

By Molly Fenster, American Institutes for Research

Have you ever wondered how many public high school students graduate on time? Or wanted to know the types of safety and security measures schools use, or the latest trends in the cost of a college education? If so, the NCES Fast Facts website has the answers for you!

Launched on March 1, 1999, the Fast Facts site originally included 45 responses to the questions most frequently asked by callers to the NCES Help Line. Today, the more than 70 Fast Facts answer questions of interest to education stakeholders–such as a teacher, school administrator, or researcher–as well as college students, parents, and community members with a specific interest or data need. The facts feature text, tables, figures, and links from various published sources, primarily the Digest of Education Statistics and The Condition of Education, and they are updated periodically with new data from recently released publications and products. 

For example, the screenshot below shows one of the most accessed Fast Facts on high school dropout rates:

Access the site for the full Fast Fact, as well as links to “Related Tables and Figures” and “Other Resources” on high school dropout rates.

The other facts on the site feature a diverse range of topics from child care, homeschooling, students with disabilities, teachers, and enrollment, to graduation rates, educational attainment, international education, finances, and more. The site is organized to provide concise, current information in the following areas:

  • Assessments;
  • Early Childhood;
  • Elementary and Secondary;
  • Library;
  • Postsecondary and Beyond; and
  • Resources.

Five recently released Fast Facts on ACT scores; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; public school students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch; postsecondary student debt; and Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer the latest data on these policy-relevant and interesting education topics.

Join our growing base of users and visit the Fast Facts site today!