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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 surveys, as well as the Teacher Compensation Survey (TCS).1 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 surveys, while the School District Finance Survey (F-33) and the National Public Education Financial Survey (NPEFS) are the fiscal surveys. State education agencies (SEAs) report these CCD surveys annually to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and participation is voluntary.

The F-33 survey is a collaborative effort of NCES and the U.S. Census Bureau (Census Bureau).2 The 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 NCES then process, edit, and verify the data before publication. The FY 11 CCD F-33 collection opened on February 1, 2012 and closed on March 13, 2013.

Data quality. Staff at NCES and the Census Bureau collaborate to edit all F-33 data submissions and ask state F-33 coordinators to correct or confirm any numbers that appear out of range when compared with other states’ data or with the state’s data submissions in previous years. If no explanation for anomalous data is provided by the state, NCES will attempt to correct or adjust the data value (e.g., NCES will replace a reported total with the sum of detail in cases where the sum of detail exceeds a reported total).

Fifth percentile, median, and 95th percentile cutpoints. After arranging observations in ascending order, the 5th percentile is a value such that 5 percent of the observations are less than or equal to this value. The 95th percentile is a value such that 5 percent of the observations are greater than or equal to this value. These cutpoints have been chosen to reduce the influence of extreme values that may occur. A median is a value in an ordered set of values for which there is an equal number of values above or below or which is the arithmetic mean of the two middle values if there is no one middle number.

Missing data. When reporting totals for a state, if information is missing for more than 20 percent of the school districts, NCES suppresses the totals for that state. When reporting national totals, if information is missing for more than 15 percent of the school districts, NCES suppresses the national totals; if information is missing for no more than 15 percent of the school districts, NCES calculates totals and identifies them as "reporting states" totals (rather than totals for the United States). A "reporting states" total is calculated for federal revenues by program in table 7 in this report, because not all 50 states and the District of Columbia reported all the specific federal revenues in FY 11. For these states, the missing federal revenues are included in the "Other and unspecified revenues through state" and/or "Other revenues direct to school districts" categories.

In order to determine whether a zero response for a federal revenue data item on the FY 11 F-33 is missing or not applicable, the data are compared to the FY 05 F-33 file. This is the latest file that has been updated with data from the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) data file. Information from this comparison is only applicable to table 8. The GEPA survey collects data on federal revenues directly from school districts, and is conducted every other year. If a specific federal revenue item for a district is zero on the FY 11 F-33, F-33 staff looked at the same item and district on the FY 05 F-33 file. If the FY 05 F-33 file showed the item as zero, then it was assumed not to be applicable for FY 11. If a value greater than zero was found for the item on the FY 05 F-33 file, then the item was assumed to be missing for FY 11.

Regular school districts and charter schools.

Tabulations in tables 2, 3, and 6 include only regular school districts. Some regular districts operate both charter and noncharter schools.

Table 4 includes the 100 largest school districts that operate both charter and noncharter schools.

Comparability of fiscal data across states. Because the District of Columbia has only one regular school district, it is often an outlier for comparisons of revenues and expenditures, with larger revenues and expenditures per student than the median school district in other states. Similarly, Hawaii is a single regular school district and funds public education primarily through state taxes. Because of this, Hawaii’s data may pose problems of comparability similar to those of the District of Columbia. The analyses in this report do not take into account geographic cost differences among states.

Comparing expenditures across districts. District-level analyses and comparisons can be complicated by the variety of administrative structures that exist across the nation in regular school districts. States such as Florida, Maryland, Nevada, and West Virginia have large districts that serve entire counties and encompass all levels and types of public schools. School districts in other states may exist in small communities with only one school or in larger communities where all elementary schools are in one school district and all secondary schools are in another. In some states, all special education schools are administered by a few specific districts; in other states, each district may have all kinds of schools and programs. This variety in the types of school districts makes it difficult to compare expenditures across school districts. The analyses in this report do not take into account geographic cost differences across districts.

Inflation-adjusted data. FY 10 data in table 3 in this report have been adjusted to FY 11 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. Readers wanting more information about the CPI can refer to NCES' Digest of Education Statistics. 2012 Advance Release Tables, table 34: or the Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI webpage:

Fiscal years. The fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30 for most states. The fiscal year for Alabama and the District of Columbia runs from October 1 through September 30, and the fiscal year for Nebraska, Texas, and Washington runs from September 1 through August 31. The F-33 data are not adjusted to conform to a uniform fiscal year across states.

1 The TCS is a research and development collection that provides individual teacher-level data on total compensation, teacher status, and demographic data about individual teachers from multiple states.
2 The F-33 survey is part of the Census Bureau’s Annual Surveys of State and Local Government Finances. Census Bureau publications including F-33 data can be found at