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Appendix A: Methodology and Technical Notes

Common Core of Data survey system. The Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system contains nonfiscal and fiscal components and the Teacher Compensation Survey (TCS). The State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education, the Local Education Agency Universe Survey, and the Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey are the nonfiscal components, while the School District Finance Survey (F-33) and the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) are the fiscal components. The TCS is also a part of the CCD survey system.4 State education agencies (SEAs) report these surveys annually to NCES, and participation in the CCD is voluntary.

The U.S. Department of Education collects data for CCD nonfiscal surveys through the EDFacts data collection system. The U.S. Census Bureau performs the data collection for CCD fiscal surveys on behalf of NCES. The Census Bureau collects the fiscal data through an online data collection site. The Census Bureau and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) then process, edit, and verify the data before publication. The fiscal year 2009 (FY 09) NPEFS collection opened on March 1, 2010 and closed on September 7, 2010. All states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the four U.S. Island Areas reported in the FY 09 NPEFS collection.

Data quality. Staff at NCES and the Census Bureau collaborate to edit all CCD data submissions and ask state CCD coordinators to correct or confirm any numbers that appear out of range when compared with other states’ data or with the state’s reports in previous years. If a state provides no explanation for anomalous data, NCES will change the data value. For example, NCES will replace a reported total with the sum of detail in cases where the sum of detail exceeds a reported total. NCES will also change a value to “not available” if data values are not plausible (e.g., if the number of students increases tenfold from the prior year to the current year while the number of teachers remains unchanged from the prior year, NCES will set the current year value for teachers to “not available”).

Missing data. Not all states collect and report all of the data items requested in the CCD surveys. NCES imputes (replaces a nonresponse with a plausible value) for some missing items in NPEFS. Precise information about the extent of missing data is included in the documentation for the NPEFS FY 09 file.

Imputed and edited data. NCES imputes and edits some reported values in the NPEFS to create data files that more accurately reflect finance data and to improve comparability among states. Imputations and edits are performed on data from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the four U.S. Island Areas. A limited amount of data for Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were reallocated across expenditures functions.

  • Imputations correct cases in which a value is not reported at all, indicating that subtotals for the item are underreported. An imputation assigns a value to the missing item and increases the subtotals containing this item by the amount of the imputation. The same method is used for imputing revenues and expenditures. Revenues are imputed based on total revenues in reporting states, and expenditures are imputed based on total expenditures in reporting states.
  • Edits correct cases in which a value reported for one item contains a value for one or more additional items not reported elsewhere. For example, a state might not differentiate between instructional support staff and student support staff, reporting “missing” for student support staff salaries and a value for instructional support staff salaries that includes both items. NCES would edit these two responses by reducing the amount reported for instructional support staff salaries and adding that amount to student support staff salaries. The total for salaries and total expenditures would not be affected by this edit.

All imputed values in the tables in this report are noted. Imputed values are never used in the imputation of another value. Totals and subtotals in tables are noted if one or more items in the total or subtotal are imputed or edited. In some instances, redistribution of reported values to correct for missing data items may affect state values.

Beginning with the FY 06 file, NCES notes values that have been affected by the distribution of state direct support for and on behalf of school districts. This results in many more items having noted data than in previous reports. States that report their direct support expenditures with their detailed finance data are not noted, since no redistribution was required.

Respondents for the NPEFS were asked to review student membership data from the CCD State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education to make sure that the membership data were consistent with programs whose revenues and expenditures are reported on NPEFS. Twelve states (Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) indicated that prekindergarten programs were not included in the NPEFS data, so counts of these students were subtracted from the student membership data reported on the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education for use on the NPEFS. Wisconsin does not include finance data for charter schools in the NPEFS data they report, but their membership counts on the State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education include charter school students. Because of this, the membership count for Wisconsin was derived from their district-level membership counts CCD School District Finance Survey, which did not include students enrolled in charter schools.

Totals. National totals reported in the tables are limited to the 50 states and the District of Columbia and do not include data from Puerto Rico or the four other jurisdictions of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Current expenditures. Researchers generally use current expenditures instead of total expenditures when comparing education spending between states or across time because current expenditures exclude expenditures for capital outlay, which tend to have dramatic increases and decreases from year to year. Also, the current expenditures commonly reported are for public elementary and secondary education only. Many school districts also support community services, adult education, private education, and other programs, which are included in total expenditures. These programs and the extent to which they are funded by school districts vary greatly both across and within states.

Comparability of fiscal data across states. Because the District of Columbia is a single urban district, it is often an outlier in comparisons of revenues and expenditures, with larger revenues and expenditures per student than most states have. Similarly, Hawaii is a single school district and funds public education primarily through state taxes. Because of this, Hawaii’s data may be distinctive compared to other states.

Inflation-adjusted data. Data in tables 5 and 6 and figure 2 in this report have been adjusted to FY 09 dollars to account for inflation using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjusted to a fiscal year basis (July through June). The CPI is published by the U.S. Labor Department, Bureau of Labor Statistics. This price index measures the average change in inflation of a fixed market basket of goods and services purchased by consumers.

Fiscal years. The fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30 for most states. The fiscal year for Alabama runs from October 1 through September 30, and the fiscal year for Nebraska and Texas runs from September 1 through August 31. NCES does not adjust NPEFS data conform to a uniform fiscal year across states.

4 The first Pilot Teacher Compensation Survey was launched by NCES in 2007 collecting school year 2005–06 data.