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Policies and Procedures Manual


Section 1: Functions and Objectives
Section 2: Participation:

Section 3: Organization:

Section 4: Governance:

Section 5: Discussion of Issues, Resolutions, and Reports:

Section 6: Meeting Schedule
Section 7: Funding
Section 8: Appendices


U.S. Department of Education
Margaret Spellings

Institute of Education Sciences
Grover J. Whitehurst

National Center for Education Statistics
Mark Schneider

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting, analyzing, and reporting data related to education in the United States and other nations. It fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, collate, analyze, and report full and complete statistics on the condition of education in the United States; conduct and publish reports and specialized analyses of the meaning and significance of such statistics; assist state and local education agencies in improving their statistical systems; and review and report on education activities in foreign countries.

NCES activities are designed to address high priority education data needs; provide consistent, reliable, complete, and accurate indicators of education status and trends; and report timely, useful, and high quality data to the U.S. Department of Education, the Congress, the states, other education policymakers, practitioners, data users, and the general public.

We strive to make our products available in a variety of formats and in language that is appropriate to a variety of audiences. You, as our customer, are the best judge of our success in communicating information effectively. If you have any comments or suggestions about this or any other NCES product or report, we would like to hear from you. Please direct your comments to:

National Center for Education Statistics
Institute of Education Sciences U.S. Department of Education
1990 K Street, NW #9095
Washington, DC 20006

October 2003

Suggested Citation

U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. The National Forum on Education Statistics Policies and Procedures Manual, NCES 97-952 Revised. Project Officer, Ghedam Bairu. Washington, DC: 2003.



Uniform, timely, and accurate education information is essential to quality decisionmaking. Such information is diverse and requires periodic examination and improvement as it is collected by local, state, and federal entities. While this information includes the wide range of general purpose statistics, some of it is specified in federal and state education legislation. To meet the needs of the potential users and uses of this crucial education information, the National Forum on Education Statistics (the Forum) mission is to develop and recommend strategies for building education data systems that will support local, state and national efforts to improve public and private education throughout the United States. The Forum also discusses, and may state a position on issues and developments in information technology; promotes national data standards; and provides technical assistance activities and products to improve data quality and use.


The National Cooperative Education Statistics System (Cooperative System) was established by the Hawkins-Stafford Education Improvement Amendments of 1988 (Public Law 100-297) to "Produce and maintain, with the cooperation of the States, comparable and uniform educational information and data" and retains this responsibility under the mandate of Public Law 107-279, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002. To assist in meeting this goal, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has established the National Forum on Education Statistics to improve the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. Full Forum members consist of federal, state, and local education representatives whose agencies have major responsibility for collecting and reporting state and national elementary and secondary education data through the Cooperative System. Associate members of the Forum consist of national-level agencies or organizations that collect and/or use elementary and secondary education data. In addition, meetings are open to the general public, and experts may be invited to participate in Forum activities and to offer their expertise during Forum deliberations.

The Forum serves as a vital resource in the development of the Cooperative System and the improvement of the nationwide elementary and secondary education data system. The Forum is intended to be an arena in which federal and state education representatives and others in the education community can discuss issues, address problems, and develop new approaches. Thus, the Forum will play a major role in the creation of a truly cooperative and efficient elementary and secondary education statistics system, one that provides the federal government, states, school districts, and educators with the quality information they need to foster excellence in our nation's schools.


Section 1: Functions and Objectives

The Forum is intended to be a voluntary, democratic, participative federal-state group that identifies education data needs of national, state, and local policy import, and recommends broad strategies or approaches to address these needs cooperatively. It is not intended to implement or enforce education policies or programs. The Forum considers matters including but not limited to (1) development of a national agenda for the collection and reporting of elementary and secondary education statistics; (2) development of policies and procedures for implementing and strengthening the Cooperative System; and (3) improvement of communication among the National Center for Education Statistics, state education agencies (SEAs), and other providers and users of national education information on issues concerning the Cooperative System and the national data agenda.

In exercising these functions, the Forum considers ways to:

  • Promote uniformity and comparability in education statistical data throughout the nation. The Forum addresses such issues as the development of standard definitions and methods for collecting, reporting, and validating statistical data; the use of new technologies to improve the comparability and uniformity of data; the elimination of duplicative data collection among federal agencies; and the creation of new national education data systems.
  • Design and implement data plans. The Forum addresses such issues as improving interaction and coordination between NCES and SEAs in reaching agreements about what data states will provide; achieving comparable, accurate, and timely data across all states; and assisting states to improve their own data collection and reporting systems.
  • Research, develop, demonstrate, evaluate, and disseminate information about new technology for education data. Through its recommendations and sponsorship of programs and projects under the Cooperative System, the Forum addresses such topics as developing new technologies to facilitate data collections; promoting national data standards; and identifying best practice in data collection and use. The Forum assists NCES in identifying innovative state projects that can serve as models for other states in the area of information technology, and may recommend support of such projects. These may include projects to ensure that data collection activities respond to the emerging information needs of the federal government, states, and the education community; the development of new technologies to facilitate data collections; and assessment of the results and implications of statistical initiatives.
  • Provide technical assistance to SEAs and local school districts to help them improve the quality, comparability, and timeliness of the data they submit to the federal government. The Forum addresses such issues as identifying areas where SEAs and school districts need assistance, promoting effective approaches to providing technical assistance, and monitoring of the quality and effectiveness of technical assistance programs. The forum documents and promotes "best practice" guidelines in education data collection, reporting and use.


Section 2: Participation

Participants in the Forum include federal, state, and local agencies, education and statistical organizations, and other organizations and individuals who are involved in the collection, reporting, and use of elementary and secondary education statistics. Only federal, state, and local agencies may be members of the Forum. Others may participate as associates. The following describes the two levels of Forum participation.


The members of the Forum will consist of the education agencies of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico (hereafter referred to as the states); one local education agency selected by each Chief State School Officer; the NCES Commissioner (ex officio), the Associate Commissioners of major NCES divisions, and the office of the NCES Chief Statistician; the Principal Offices of the U.S. Department of Education or programs within these principal offices that collect or use elementary/secondary education data, including but not limited to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Office for Civil Rights; the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services; the Office of Vocational and Adult Education; the Office of English Language Acquisition; the Office of Migrant Education; the Office of the Deputy Secretary; the Office for Assessment; the Office of Non-Public Education; the Office of Research; and the Office of the Chief Information Officer; the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of the Census; the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics; and the U.S. Department of Defense Dependents Schools.

Members are full partners in all Forum activities. They attend Forum meetings; participate in discussions and consensus building; take an active role in committee, subcommittee, and working group activities; vote on approving and amending Forum policies and procedures; elect officers; and may hold office. With the exception of NCES, each federal principal office or program of the U.S. Department of Education that is a member will have one representative, designated by the head of that principal office or program, on the Forum. Each state will have one state and one local representative appointed by the Chief State School Officer; the state representative will also serve as the state liaison to the Cooperative System and will speak for the Chief State School Officer in Forum and Cooperative System activities. The state liaison may designate a permanent alternate who will attend meetings and manage other Forum responsibilities in the liaison's place. In the absence of the state liaison, the permanent alternate has the same voting and participation rights as a full member.


State education agencies, local education agencies, and federal agencies that collect or report elementary and secondary education information are eligible to be members of the Forum. Members must commit themselves to participate in the Cooperative System. Participation by member organization representatives will include attendance at Forum meetings; leadership or other effort in Forum committees, subcommittees, task forces or working groups; and reporting of Forum action and recommendations to the leadership of the member organizations. Federal agencies outside the U.S. Department of Education that collect or report elementary or secondary education data, or that have expertise in an area of interest to the Cooperative System, are also eligible for membership. Agencies meeting the criteria for membership may apply for this status to the Forum Steering Committee, or may be invited to apply by the Steering Committee, and shall become members upon approval of a recommendation to this effect from the Steering Committee by the Forum members.


Associates participate in Forum meetings and take an active role in committee, subcommittee, and working group activities. They participate in the discussion of issues, but they do not participate in formal decisionmaking of the full Forum, and they do not vote for Forum officers or on policies and procedures. They may not hold elected office. Federal agencies that are associates may become members, but associations may not. Appendix A lists current Forum associates.


To be an associate, an agency or organization must collect or be a major user of elementary and secondary education information. Organizations meeting the criterion for associate status may apply to the Forum Steering Committee for associate status, or may be invited by the Steering Committee to apply. Upon recommendation by the Steering Committee and approval by the Forum, the organization shall be granted associate status.


Section 3: Organization

Activities take place within the Forum as a whole, the Steering Committee, the three standing committees, additional subcommittees, working groups, and task forces. The following describes the responsibilities and functions of the major levels. The operating procedures of the committees are determined by their chairpersons.


The entire Forum membership participates in the election of officers as well as the approval of reports and products, the forum strategic plan, and amendments to Forum policies and procedures. The Forum leadership consists of a chair and vice chair who also serve as the leaders of the Steering Committee (see below). The chair serves as moderator for all Forum deliberations and activities.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee oversees and coordinates all Forum activities. Its members are the chair and vice chair of the Forum, the immediate past chair of the Forum, and the chairs and vice chairs of the three standing committees. It is chaired by the Forum chair.

Standing Committees

The standing committees are designed to address the major mandates of the Cooperative System, to promote long-range planning, and to foster continuity in Forum activities. Membership in standing committees will be limited to members and associates of the Forum. The Forum chair makes committee assignments. Assignments will be made after inquiry of members as to their preference, and all attempts will be made to accommodate such preferences. The following section describes the chief responsibilities of the three standing committees.

National Education Statistics Agenda Committee

The National Education Statistics Agenda Committee (NESAC) will address ways to improve the quality of education data to fulfill the Cooperative System's legislative mandate to improve the quality of data for education policy making at all levels of government. The committee has as its mission the development of a national education statistics agenda, that is, the identification of issues and policy concerns bearing on the development of comparable and effective nationwide elementary and secondary education data collection, reporting, and use, focusing on the major areas of student, staff, fiscal, institutional, and other information that yields valuable perspective on education in the United States.

Policies, Programs, and Implementation Committee

The Policies, Programs, and Implementation (PPI) Committee deliberates on the major functions and general effectiveness of the Cooperative System. Specifically, PPI focuses on addressing ways to assist SEAs and school districts in improving their ability to collect and report comparable, accurate, and timely data, and enhancing coordination among federal agencies, and between federal and state agencies. In addition, PPI addresses ways to reduce paperwork burdens at all levels of government, and to explore ongoing and emerging issues such as data sharing and confidentiality of education records. PPI is also responsible for recommending amendments to the Policy and Procedures Manual and reviewing and recommending the formation of new task forces.

Technology Committee

The Technology Committee (TECH) is concerned with new and proven technology strategies to improve the exchange of student and staff information and the technical infrastructure that supports this exchange. It promotes the development and adoption of standards for electronic data exchange, and sponsors pilot and developmental projects in the exchange of data about students and education staff, as well as examining the impact of new technologies on information exchange. The committee produces "best practices" guides to help schools, school districts and state education agencies make good decisions about selecting hardware, software, and networking services for information management and dealing with issues such as data security, data quality, and the integration of information systems to support effective decision making.

Subcommittees and Working Groups

Standing committees may establish subcommittees to address additional issues. Subcommittees consist of members of the standing committee with a chairperson determined by the standing committee. Subcommittees do not require resources to complete their assignments.

Working groups are ad hoc groups primarily established to develop a product development and dissemination plan for a proposed task force (See Appendix C). Working groups consist of Forum members and associates and non-Forum invited experts, with a chairperson established by the standing committee proposing the new task force. Working groups may request resources to assist them in developing a task force plan. Working groups will be acknowledged by the Steering Committee.

Task Forces

Each committee may recommend the establishment of task forces to address specific issues or develop products. A written product development and dissemination plan is reviewed by the Policies, Programs, and Implementation (PPI) Committee to ensure that the objectives relate to the Forum strategic plan and there is no overlap with other Forum committees or task forces (See Appendix C). The PPI Committee makes recommendations to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee either approves or disapproves the establishment of task forces. Membership in task forces is not limited to members and associates of the Forum. A task force chairperson will be designated by the standing committee requesting the task force. The task force will develop a work plan that includes objectives, deliverables, outcomes, and a timeline for the completion of the work.

NCES Staff Support

The National Center for Education Statistics will assign a staff member to serve as liaison to each committee of the Forum. The NCES staff assists in coordinating the activities of the committees, working groups, and task forces. If a committee requests a report or additional information on a particular topic, the NCES staff will assist in meeting the request. The NCES staff will provide assistance in the preparation of the committee, subcommittee, and working group reports.


Section 4: Governance

Selection of Forum Officers

At each summer Forum meeting, the Steering Committee will nominate a slate of officers, each of whom will be voted upon by the full membership in a Forum election. A quorum must be present for an election to be held; officers will be elected by a majority vote of those present. The slate will include the Forum/Steering Committee chair, the Forum/Steering Committee vice chair, and the chairs and vice chairs of the three standing committees. Nominations for Forum officers may also be made from the floor.


At least half of all members must be present at a Forum meeting in order to hold an election or vote on an amendment to the policies and procedures. If a quorum is not present, the election or amendment process must be postponed until at least half of the members are present.

Forum Officers

The Forum chair is the chief officer of the Forum as well as chair of the Steering Committee. As such, the chair represents the Forum in all communications with the Commissioner of Education Statistics and other individuals or groups, unless the chair designates the vice chair or another Forum member to serve in his or her capacity. In addition, the chair serves as moderator for all Forum activities including elections, discussions, and votes on reports and amendments to policies and procedures.

Committee Officers

Each standing committee will have a chair and vice chair that are elected by a vote of the full Forum. Subcommittee and working group chairs are appointed by their committee chairs. Committee chairs may appoint vice chairs of subcommittees or working groups if they deem it necessary.

Terms and Tenure

Forum and committee officers will be elected for a period of one year and will take office immediately following the summer Forum meeting at which they are elected. There is no limit to the number of terms an officer may serve.

Approving and Amending Policies and Procedures

Forum members have the authority to approve and amend the policies and procedures of the Forum. Members may amend the policies and procedures at the initiation of the Steering Committee and by consensus or a majority vote of the members present.

The following procedures are used in the amendment process: (1) the Steering Committee recommends amendments; (2) amendments proposed by the Steering Committee are made available in writing to all Forum members at least three weeks prior to the Forum meeting at which the vote will take place; and (3) members vote on the recommendation during a Forum meeting or via electronic vote. Other committees or individual members may propose amendments in policies and procedures to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee must report each proposed amendment to the full Forum regardless of the committee's recommendation.


When a state joins the Cooperative System, the Chief State School Officer makes a commitment to designate a state and a local liaison to represent the state in the Cooperative System and serve on the Forum. Consequently, the state and local liaisons make a commitment to attend the two Forum meetings each year and to participate in the meetings and other activities of the committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces of which they are members.

For federal members and for associates, the agreement to participate in the Forum brings with it a commitment to attend the twice-yearly Forum meetings and to participate in committee, subcommittee, working group, and task force meetings and other activities.


Section 5: Discussion of Issues, Resolutions, and Reports

Consensus Process

To the extent possible, reports from committees, subcommittees, working groups, and task forces should reflect the views of all their members. Wherever feasible, this broad agreement will be determined by using consensus as the decision making process for the Forum's actions. Consensus is defined as the requirement that all individuals party to a decision agree to the decision before it can be considered approved. It should be noted that a decision reached through consensus may not reflect each participant's favored resolution, but will reflect a resolution with which each participant can abide. However, in cases where consensus is not possible, approval to present a report to the next level of the Forum will be determined by a majority vote of the committee members present. If there is disagreement on a report, a member may issue a minority statement or report. The chair of a reporting committee determines the proper format for minority reports.

When consensus cannot be achieved for decisions of the full Forum, majority rule as determined by vote will be used. Resolutions, reports for distribution to external audiences, and other actions representing the Forum as a whole will be approved upon a two-thirds agreement among the members (a quorum or more is required) at the vote. The chair of the Forum will determine the proper format for minority reports accompanying products that represent the entire Forum.

Role of the Steering Committee

The Steering Committee oversees and coordinates all Forum activities. All issue papers, products, and reports must be submitted to the Steering Committee for review. Documents may be released as official Forum publications only upon approval by the Steering Committee. Decisions of the Steering Committee may be overturned by a vote of members at a quorum meeting.

Discussion of Issues

The Forum's primary responsibility is to raise, define, examine, and respond to the issues that confront the Cooperative System. Therefore, many of its activities and deliberations will involve in-depth discussion of issues and development of alternative approaches and viewpoints rather than taking a particular position on an issue (although the Forum also has the authority to make specific proposals).

Discussion topics may be initiated by the Commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the Steering Committee, any of the other committees, subcommittees or working groups, or an individual member or associate from the floor at Forum meetings. If initiated by the Commissioner or Steering Committee, the Steering Committee chair will assign the matter to one of the standing committees for action; the committee chair, in turn, may assign the matter to a subcommittee or working group. If the topic is initiated within a committee, the committee reaches a decision on the matter before forwarding the findings to the Steering Committee. Issues arising from the floor at Forum meetings will be discussed by the full Forum at that time or referred by the Forum chair to an appropriate committee, depending upon the will of the Forum as expressed through a vote. In all cases, a topic is first addressed at the committee level before moving to the Steering Committee level and then submitted to the Commissioner. In situations where the Forum is not making a specific resolution, it may issue a report or issue paper.


The Forum may make recommendations in the form of resolutions. Resolutions may be submitted to the Steering Committee by the appropriate committee and then voted upon by the Forum membership.

Resolutions may be initiated at any level of the Forum, including individual members from the floor at Forum meetings or by communication with an appropriate committee at other times. When a resolution is raised from the floor, a vote will be taken to determine whether it is to be resolved by the full Forum at that time or referred to the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee may refer a matter to one of the standing committees and ask for a recommendation. A standing committee or subcommittee may initiate a recommendation on its own.

Whether a recommendation is initiated at the committee level or referred to a committee by the Steering Committee, the committee must reach agreement (see Consensus Process) before seeking action by the Steering Committee.


The Steering Committee will prepare an annual Report of the Forum. The report will present Forum deliberations, explain the work of the Forum during the preceding year, and provide any other information the Steering Committee or Forum deems important. The report will be submitted no later than September 1. The Steering Committee may issue additional reports at any time.

Committees and subcommittees will submit reports at the discretion of the committee chairs. All reports must be approved by the Steering Committee and full Forum before they are submitted to the Commissioner, the general public, or any other audience(s) external to the Forum.

Reporting requirements for task forces will conform to the Product Development & Dissemination Guide (See Appendix C).


Section 6: Meeting Schedule

The Forum will hold meetings each year that may be in-person or virtual. The Steering Committee and all standing committees meet in conjunction with the Forum meetings and at other times as deemed necessary by their chairs and NCES. Subcommittee and working group meeting schedules are determined by NCES and their chairs.


Section 7: Funding

The National Center for Education Statistics may provide funds, as available, through the Cooperative System to support state participation in Forum activities. The funds, which will come from the annual NCES allocation to states as members of the Cooperative System, are intended to defray in part the travel expenses and staff time for state officials who participate in Forum meetings and activities. In addition, NCES may provide additional funds through the Cooperative System, as available, to the committees, task forces, working groups, or individuals to assist in carrying out special projects.


Publications of the National Forum on Education Statistics do not undergo the formal review required for products of the National Center for Education Statistics. The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.