Skip Navigation

Statistical Standards
Statistical Standards Program
Table of Contents
1. Development of Concepts and Methods
2. Planning and Design of Surveys
3. Collection of Data
4. Processing and Editing of Data
5. Analysis of Data / Production of Estimates or Projections
6. Establishment of Review Procedures
7. Dissemination of Data
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C

·Sample Table
·Major Types of Tables
·Tabular Format
·Table Titles
·Table Stub
·Tabular Notes
·Sizing a Table
Appendix D
Publication information

For help viewing PDF files, please click here

(This is a quick guide; for more details, see the 2002 edition of
NCES Guidelines for Tabular Presentations)


  1. An NCES report may contain as many as three different types of tables.
    • Summary/text tables¾range in size from a few lines to one or two pages and require titles and table numbers. You can place each summary table at or near the first text reference to the table or group them at the ends of chapters or at the end of the report in the order mentioned in the text. Summary tables precede reference tables if there are any.
    • Reference tables¾detailed tables containing large quantities of data. They usually form a separate section at the end of the text or in an appendix (in the order mentioned in the text). When these tables include standard errors along with the data they should be placed in an appendix.
    • Methodological tables¾contain relevant statistics for the data in a report; for example, sample sizes, coefficients of variation, or standard errors. Place these tables in an appendix and follow the order the tables are presented in the report.
  2. If you disperse tables throughout the text, refer to each of them in the narrative, and refer to them sequentially (i.e., the tables should appear in the order mentioned in the text).


  1. Start out with the topic of the table, followed by a comma and then the "by" list.
  2. In the "by" list, items in the columns are listed first, followed by the items in the rows.
  3. End the title with a colon followed by the data year(s).
  4. Capitalize only the first word, proper nouns, and the word following the colon.
  5. Avoid footnoting a title; use a general note (i.e., NOTE: instead).
  6. Year spans¾use 1988-97 or 1988 through 1997 for a span of calendar years; 1988 and 1987 for two distinct years. Use Fiscal years 1989-98 or Fiscal years 1989 through 1998 for a span of fiscal years. And, use Academic year 1988-89 for one school year or Academic years 1988-89 through 1991-92 for a span of school years. Use en dashes instead of hyphens between years.


  1. Place the stub header flush left.
  2. Report grand totals in the first row of the table.
    • If the table has only two levels, that is, the grand total and one disaggregation, tab over three spaces the size of the letter "n" to start the table grand total.
    • If the table has three or more levels, that is the grand total and at least two disaggregations, tab over 5 "n" spaces to start the grand total.
  3. Start the label for the first level of disaggregation (that is, the major group or subtotal) at the left margin of the table.
  4. Tab over two "n" spaces to start the second level of disaggregation.
  5. Tab over four "n" spaces for the label for a third level of disaggregation (continue this pattern for additional levels of disaggregation).
  6. If a row label needs a footnote place it to the right of the label.
  7. If the rows are school years, use "School year ending" as the stub and then use the single years across from such a stub.
  8. Use full state names in table stubs.
  9. Use an en-dash to designate "through" when referring to age.


  1. Place the side stub head flush left.
  2. Column spanners should be centered over the set of columns they describe.
  3. Place each column head flush right.
  4. If a column header needs a footnote place it to the right of the header.
  5. If the columns are school years, use "School year ending" as a spanner head and then use the single years under such a head.
  6. Use an en-dash to designate "through" when referring to age span.


  1. Do not mix different measurements of data in the same column (e.g., percents and counts).
  2. In tables displaying dollar amounts over time, indicate whether the amounts are current or constant dollars and include the base year (e.g., in constant/current 1997 dollars). Place dollar signs only in the first row.
  3. If the rows and columns in a table may not add to the totals presented, add a general note, "Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding."
    • Use a † if data for the cell are not applicable. (Do not use NA). Use - for not available (i.e., not reported) and # for rounds to zero. These symbols fill the cell and do not require parentheses. See Attachment for a list of symbols to use with blank cells.
    • If a cell is blank for a reason not covered by a special symbol, footnote the cell with the footnote number in parentheses flush right in the column.
  5. If a number in a cell needs a footnote, place the footnote to the right of the number; and if a numerical footnote stands alone in a cell, it is enclosed in parentheses: (1).
  6. In order to place a zero in a cell, the measure must actually be zero based on universe data. (It is preferable to report it 0, not 0.0.)
  7. Use a line of periods (leaders) only when a wide space divides the stub and the first column.
  8. In text and summary tables, round percentages to no more than one decimal place, round four and five digit numbers to hundreds, and round six digit numbers and over to thousands.
  9. In reference and methodology tables, round percentages to no more than two decimal places, except in certain methodological tables, where a finer breakdown may be necessary. Standard errors should be reported to one decimal place more than the related estimate.


  1. Footnotes-bring all lines of a footnote flush left.
  2. Symbol footnotes precede numbered ones at the bottom of the table.
  3. Place numbered footnotes next.
  4. The general note comes next; bring all lines for notes flush left. There may be more than one note, but they are all reported in one NOTE: section.
  5. The last entry at the bottom of the table is the SOURCE: Department name, agency name, major survey or publication title, subsurvey title (in quotes), and year of survey or publication.
  6. For unpublished data, use the month and year of the tabulation or tape file.
  7. For up to three years of data, state each year. For more than three continuous years, give the year span. For more than three noncontinuous years, use "selected years" and the year span.
  8. Use a semicolon to separate sources from the same agency. Use a period to separate agencies.


The following list summarizes a number of statistical special notes and related set of symbols that should be used consistently across all NCES reports. If necessary additional explanatory notes may be added to the end of relevant notes.

Symbol Label Meaning
¾ Not available Data were not collected or not reported
Not applicable Category does not exist
# Rounds to zero The estimate rounds to zero
! Interpret data with caution Estimates are unstable
Reporting standards not met Did not meet reporting standards
* p<0.05 Significance level