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Forum Curriculum for Improving Education Data
NCES 2007-808
May 2007

Lesson: Validating and Auditing Data


Data Steward/Coordinator


This lesson introduces the concepts of data validation and auditing, and how they affect data quality. The lesson also structures opportunities to begin planning for an effective data audit process.


  • Describe the steps involved in validating data.
  • Identify the purposes and elements of a data audit.
  • Create an outline of a plan for providing data audits.

Instructor Preparation

Make a copy of the following lesson resources (which can be found in the Lesson Resources section column at the top of this page) for each participant.

  • Basic Data Validating Steps
  • Basic Data Auditing Steps
  • Detailed Data Auditing Steps
  • Data Audit Planning Form
  • Examples of Best Practices Regarding Internal Data Audits

Essential Learnings

  • The earlier in the process of entering and producing data that an error is spotted, the less time is needed to correct the error and the fewer the data systems that have to be corrected. Having data entry staff check for data entry mistakes (i.e., validating data) is an important first step in producing quality data.
  • Auditing data multiple times as data move through a school or district system facilitates identifying where in the data flow an error is created.
  • End users such as the state department of education and the principals and teachers in your Local Education Agency (LEA) will perform a data audit function by indicating inconsistencies among reports they have received and their previous knowledge of the LEA.
  • The first step in correcting an apparent error in the data is to determine if it is in fact an error rather than an exception to the norm.
  • Once an error and the process for correcting it have been identified (for example, changing “Smith, Christopher” to “Smyth, Christofer”), the next step is to determine how many data systems might contain the error and to correct each instance.