Public education in the U.S. is primarily organized by geography, and many important issues like school choice, teacher supply, school poverty, and others are significantly influenced by spatial context. In the same way that administrative, fiscal, demographic, and sample survey data provide valuable information about high school drop-outs, per pupil expenditures, neighborhood poverty, and student achievement, geographic data like school district boundaries, school locations, and community locale classifications help to clarify the social and spatial context that affects schools and school systems.
NCES develops geographic data to provide information about the spatial conditions of education in the U.S., but geographic data are also fundamental for developing other types of demographic and administrative data. For example, the Census Bureau could not create Title I poverty estimates or school district estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) without first defining the extent of school district boundaries. Surveys like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) use school locale information to help design samples that accurately represent educational conditions in all types of geographic areas. Programs like E-Rate and the Rural Education Achievement Program use information about school location to help determine program funding and eligibility. Educational geography not only provides a direct source of data for examining the spatial conditions of schools and school districts, it also provides the necessary structure for developing other types of educational data.