National Center for Education Statistics

Machine-Readable Tables for the Digest of Education Statistics

NCES is excited to announce the release of more than 100 Digest of Education Statistics tables in a new format that makes them easier for researchers to read and use. These tables, known as machine-readable tables (MRT), have a uniform design that allows the data to be read in a standard format.

Each MRT file contains data from one Digest table. In addition to data values, each MRT file includes metadata information pertaining to that particular table. The MRT file, which is an Excel file, includes three tabs:

  •  “MRT-README” tab: provides a brief introduction to MRT and lists all variable names and descriptions used in the table.
  •  “meta” tab: includes all table-specific metadata information, such as the Digest table number and title, general note, data source note, and URL for the corresponding Digest table.
  •  “data” tab: contains all the cell data in a format that is homogeneous across all Digest tables, such as row level headers, column level headers, data values, standard errors, data years, and special notes at the cell level.

The new MRT format facilitates access to and use of Digest table data by software programs. Those seeking to simply view the data or make a simple calculation can continue to access these data in the traditional table format on the Digest of Education Statistics webpage.

There are two ways to access the MRT files, either as a batch or as individual files. To download all available MRT files, visit the Digest MRT webpage. To download individual MRT files, click on the “Download machine readable table” link from the corresponding Digest table’s HTML page (see below).

User feedback is essential to the design of future MRTs (more MRT files will be released in the coming months). NCES welcomes any comments on or suggestions to improve the usability of these tables. For example, NCES is interested in hearing how MRT files are used for research or other applications and any changes that could improve their ease of use. Please contact us with your feedback or questions.  


By Jizhi Zhang and Paul Bailey, AIR

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