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Data Files

The U.S. PIRLS data are made available in three versions, each of which includes student achievement data as well as student, teacher, school, and curricular background data. The differences between these versions are summarized in the table below and then described in detail in the text. Because of the study’s multi-stage sample design and use of imputed scores (also known as plausible values), all of the PIRLS data files are quite complex and analysis of the data can be challenging. To help users explore the PIRLS data, we have compiled a list of online tools and tutorials, both from NCES and external sources. Please visit our Analyzing Tools page for details.

Table 1: Comparing three versions of the U.S. PIRLS data files

Version

U.S. data for international variables

Other participating
education systems’ data
for international variables

Data for U.S.-specific variables (e.g., race/ethnicity, poverty)

Restricted data (e.g., access to school names and CCD ID)

1. PIRLS International U.S. data files

Yes

Yes

No

No

2. PIRLS U.S. national public-use data files

Yes

No

Yes

No

3. PIRLS U.S. national restricted-use data files

Yes

No

Yes

Yes


1- PIRLS International U.S. data files

The PIRLS International U.S. data files are available as part of the PIRLS International Database released for each round of PIRLS. The International Database consists of data files files that include the set of international variables that are common to all participating education systems, including the United States. The PIRLS International Database, its user guide and supplements, and supporting materials (e.g., SAS/SPSS control files, international codebooks and data almanacs, international versions of the background questionnaires, and released items) are available for download for each round of PIRLS from the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Center website. This website also lists publications that may be of use to data users (e.g., PIRLS data analysis manuals, PIRLS technical reports, PIRLS international data reports, and PIRLS assessment frameworks).

2- PIRLS U.S. national public-use data files

In addition to the information collected from the international background questionnaires (which is included in the International Database), each country has the option to collect additional nationally specific information. The United States has taken advantage of this option in each round of PIRLS. For example, the United States collected additional information on the race/ethnicity of students (from questions added to the U.S. version of the PIRLS student questionnaire) and the percentage of public school students eligible for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program (from questions added to the U.S. version of the PIRLS school questionnaire). These U.S.-specific variables are available in the PIRLS U.S. national public-use data files. The public-use files for PIRLS 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016 can be downloaded from the PIRLS Data Products.

3- PIRLS U.S. national restricted-use data files

The U.S. national restricted-use data files include (a) the U.S.-specific variables that are available in the PIRLS U.S. national public-use data files, (b) complete, original data for the continuous variables that are converted into categorical data in the public-use data files to maintain confidentiality, and (c) the supplemental files that link PIRLS school ID numbers to the school ID numbers as they appear in the publicly available Common Core of Data (CCD) or Private School Universe Survey (PSS). Because the linking of these data reveals the identities of participating schools, the restricted-use data files are only made available to those who obtain a NCES restricted-use data license. Directions on how to obtain the license can be found at  http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/licenses.asp.

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