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School and Staffing Survey (SASS)

1. Overview

SASS collects data on:
  • School districts
  • Principals
  • Schools
  • Teachers
  • Library media centers

The NCES Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) provides data on public and private schools, principals, school districts, and teachers. SASS gathers information about many topics, including various characteristics of elementary and secondary students, some of the professional and paraprofessional staff who serve them, the programs offered by schools, principals' and teachers’ perceptions of school climate and problems in their schools, teacher compensation, and district hiring practices. SASS is a unified set of surveys that facilitates comparisons between public and private schools and allows linkages of teacher, school, school district, principal, and library media center data. First conducted in school year 1987–88, SASS has been conducted seven times, most recently in school year 2011–12.


The purpose of SASS is to collect the information necessary for a complete picture of American elementary and secondary education. SASS is designed to provide national estimates of public elementary, secondary, and combined schools and teachers; state estimates of public elementary and secondary schools and teachers; and estimates for private schools; teachers and principals at the national level; and by private school affiliation. The SASS questionnaires were revised for the 2003–04 and the 2007–08 administrations, with the addition of new items about teachers’ career paths, parental involvement, school safety, and institutional support for information literacy. The questionnaires continued to measure the same five policy issues: teacher shortage and demand; characteristics of elementary and secondary teachers; teacher workplace conditions; characteristics of school principals; and school programs and policies.

Core Components

SASS consists of four core components administered to districts, schools, principals, and teachers. The district questionnaire is sent to a sample of public school districts. The school questionnaire is sent to a sample of public schools and private schools, as well as all charter schools in operation as of 1998–99, and all schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) or American Indian/Alaska Native tribes. However, the BIE collection was discontinued after the 2007–08 administration. The principal and teacher questionnaires are sent to a sample of principals and teachers working at the schools that receive the school questionnaire. There are two follow-up surveys: the Teacher Follow-up Survey (which is covered in the TFS chapter) and the Principal Follow-up Survey (which is covered in the PFS chapter).

School District Survey (formerly the Teacher Demand and Shortage Survey). The questionnaire for this survey is mailed to each sampled local education agency (LEA). The respondents are contact people identified by LEA personnel.

If no contact person is identified, the questionnaire is addressed to “Research Director.” The School District Questionnaire consists of items about student enrollment, number of teachers, teacher recruitment and hiring practices, teacher dismissals, existence of a teacher union, length of the contract year, teacher compensation, school choice, magnet programs, graduation requirements, oversight of home-schooled students and charter schools, use of school performance reports, migrant education, and professional development for teachers and administrators. Some items that appeared previously have been dropped, such as those that collected layoff data and counts of students by grade level (the latter are available through the NCES Common Core of Data [CCD]). In the 2003–04 administration, new topics, including principal hiring practices and instructional aide hiring practices, were added to the questionnaire. In the 2007–08 administration, items on district performance, teacher tenure and dismissal, principal salary, length of the contract year for teachers, and type of retirement benefits for teachers were added or revised.

The School District Questionnaire is mailed only to public school districts. Independent public charter schools, BIE-funded schools1, and schools that are the only school in the district are given the School Questionnaire (with district items), not the School District Questionnaire. The School Questionnaire (with district items) includes all of the items included in the School Questionnaire as well as selected items from the School District Questionnaire. The applicable items for private schools appear in the Private School Questionnaire.

School Principal Survey (formerly the School Administrator Survey). The questionnaire for this survey collects information about principal/school head demographic characteristics, training, experience, salary, and judgments about the seriousness of school problems. Information is also obtained on professional development opportunities for teachers and principals, teacher performance, barriers to dismissal of underperforming teachers, school climate and safety, parent/guardian participation in school events, and attitudes about educational goals and school governance. The 2007–08 questionnaire appeared in two versions: one for principals or heads of public schools and one for heads of private schools. The two versions contain minor variations in phrasing to reflect differences between public and private schools in governing bodies and position titles in schools. Items on experience prior to becoming a principal, teacher and school performance, and time allocation for students during the week were added or revised in the 2007–08 questionnaire. These changes were then carried through to the 2011–12 questionnaire.


School Survey. The questionnaires for this survey are sent to public schools, private schools, BIE schools1, and charter schools. Private schools receive the Private School Questionnaire, while BIE schools and charter schools receive the School Questionnaire (with district items), described separately below. As in 2007–08, the 2011–12 data collection for the private school component of SASS coincided with the administration of the NCES Private School Universe Survey (PSS). Since both PSS and SASS were administered in 2011–12, to reduce respondent burden, the private schools in the SASS sample were not sent a PSS questionnaire. Instead, the PSS items appeared in the SASS Private School Questionnaire. (See the PSS chapter for a more thorough discussion.)

The School Questionnaire is addressed to “Principal,” although the respondent can be any knowledgeable school staff member (e.g., vice principal, head teacher, or school administrator). Items cover grades offered, student attendance and enrollment, staffing patterns, teaching vacancies, high school graduation rates, programs and services offered, curriculum, and college application rates. The Private School Questionnaire also includes items from the School District Questionnaire that are applicable to private schools. The 2007–08 collection included items on the beginning time of students’ school day; length of the school year for students; school websites; and math, reading, or science specialist assignments.

School Questionnaire (with district items). The purpose of the questionnaire (which was also referred to as the Unified School Questionnaire in the 2003–04 SASS) was to obtain information about schools, such as grades offered, number of students enrolled, staffing patterns, teaching vacancies, high school graduation rates, programs and services offered, and college application rates. Schools that are the only school in the district, state-run schools (e.g., schools for the blind), charter schools that do not report to a traditional school district, and BIE-funded schools1 received the School Questionnaire (with district items), an expanded version of the Public School Questionnaire that included items from the School District Questionnaire.

Teacher Survey. The questionnaire for this survey is mailed to a sample of teachers from the SASS sample of schools. It is sent to teachers in public schools, private schools, charter schools, and BIE schools. The Teacher Questionnaire collects data from teachers about their education and training, teaching assignment, certification, workload, and perceptions and attitudes about teaching. Questions are also asked about teacher preparation, induction, organization of classes, computers, and professional development. The only eligible respondent for each teacher questionnaire is the teacher named on the questionnaire label. As of the 1993–94 SASS, administrators are eligible for both the Teacher Survey and the Principal Survey, if they teach a regularly scheduled class. In the 2007–08 Teacher Survey, items on grade range of teaching certification, use of electronic communications with parents, and out-of-pocket expenses for school supplies were added or revised.

Teacher Listing Form. The SASS Teacher Listing Form collects the full list of teachers from a school, along with information on subject matter taught, full– or part–time teaching status, and teaching experience. The information in the Teacher Listing Form is used to select a representative teacher sample and send out the Teacher Questionnaires. In 2007–08, the Teacher Listing Form restored a section that was removed in 2003–04, which had asked about the school name and grade range for verification purposes. (This section was not included in the survey questionnaire in 2003–04, as it was verified at the school, using a laptop-collected form.)


Additional Components

In addition to the core data collection described above, SASS featured additional components focusing on library media specialists/librarians and on student records in 1993–94 and on library media centers in 1993–94, 1999– 2000, 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011–12. One year following each SASS, a Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) is mailed to a sample of participants in the SASS Teacher Survey. (See the TFS chapter for a more complete description.) As well, one year following the the 2007–08 and 2011–12 iterations of SASS, a Principal Follow-up Survey occurred (2012–13 PFS); (

School Library Media Center Survey. This survey was added in the 1993–94 SASS. The questionnaire for the survey asks public and BIE schools about their access to and use of new information technologies. The questionnaire was not sent to private schools in 2003–04, due to budgetary reasons. (In 2007–08 and 2011–12, the survey only surveyed public schools as well.) The survey collects data on library collections, media equipment, use of technology, staffing, student services, expenditures, currency of the library collection, and collaboration between the library media specialist and classroom teachers. A section on information literacy was added to the 2003–04 questionnaire. Items on access to online licensed databases, resource availability, and information literacy were added or revised in the 2007–08 questionnaire.

School Library Media Specialist/Librarian Survey. The questionnaire for this survey was mailed to a subsample of the SASS sample of public, private, and BIE schools in 1993–94. The survey solicited data that could be used to describe school librarians–for example, their educational background, work experience, and demographic characteristics. Because much of the collected information was comparable to that obtained in the Teacher Questionnaire, comparisons between librarians and classroom teachers can be made.


Between the 1987–88 and 1993–94 school years, SASS core components were on a 3-year cycle, with the TFS conducted 1 year after SASS. After a 6–year hiatus, SASS was fielded again in the 1999–2000, 2003–04, 2007–08, school years and most recently the 2011–12 school year (with the TFS following in 2000–01, 2004–05, 2008–09, and 2012–13). Since 1999–2000, SASS administrations have been scheduled on a 4-year cycle.

Data Availability

Information on all years of SASS data is available at


1 The BIE data collection was discontinued after the 2007–08 SASS; therefore no BIE schools, principals, teachers or library media centers were sampled for the 2011–12 SASS.