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SASS Overview


The Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) is a system of related questionnaires that provide descriptive data on the context of elementary and secondary education and policymakers a variety of statistics on the condition of education in the United States. The SASS system covers a wide range of topics from teacher demand, teacher and principal characteristics, general conditions in schools, principals' and teachers' perceptions of school climate and problems in their schools, teacher compensation, district hiring and retention practices, to basic characteristics of the student population.

From its inception, SASS has had four core components: the School Questionnaire, the Teacher Questionnaire, the Principal Questionnaire, and the School District Questionnaire, which was known as the Teacher Demand and Shortage Questionnaire until the 1999–2000 SASS administration. These questionnaires are sent to respondents in public, private, and Bureau of Indian Education/tribal schools. In 1999-2000, public charter schools were also included in the sample. For the 2003–04, 2007–08, and 2011-12 SASS, a sample of public charter schools are included in the sample as part of the public school questionnaire.

Many of the same survey questions have been used in each cross-sectional cycle of the survey, allowing researchers to investigate trends over time. The questionnaires for each round of SASS are available online and can be downloaded from the Questionnaires page.

Changes to SASS Questionnaires

Although the core objectives of SASS have remained fairly constant since the first administration in 1987–88, SASS has changed to accommodate emerging issues in elementary and secondary education. Some items have been added, some have been deleted, and some items have been reworded. Also, SASS has added some questionnaires that have been discontinued in later administrations.

During the 1990–91 cycle, NCES worked with the Office of Indian Education to add an Indian School Questionnaire to SASS, and it has remained a part of the SASS through 2007-08. This questionnaire explores the same school-level issues that the Public and Private School Questionnaires explore, allowing comparisons among the three types of schools.

The Student Records Questionnaire, Library Media Center Questionnaire, and Library Media Specialist/Librarian Questionnaire were added in 1993–94. Each of these new questionnaires was administered in public, private, and Indian schools. The Library Media Center Questionnaire was continued in later rounds of SASS. The Student Records and Library Media Specialist/Librarian Questionnaires have not been administered since 1993–94.

During the 1999–2000 cycle, a Charter School Questionnaire was administered to all charter schools known to be in operation during the 1998–99 school year. Questionnaires for charter school teachers and principals were also administered. Public charter schools and their staff were incorporated into the public school sector beginning in 2003-04

Sample Selection

SASS uses a stratified probability sample design to ensure that the samples of schools, principals, teachers, districts, and school library media centers contain sufficient numbers for reliable estimates. Public and private schools are oversampled into groups based on certain characteristics. After schools are stratified and sampled, teachers within the schools are also stratified and sampled based on their characteristics.

Due to the relatively few numbers of these schools, all schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs are included as part of the public sector in the 2007–08 SASS. For more details on sampling, see the Methods and Procedures page.

Types of Schools in SASS

SASS is a large sample survey of America's elementary and secondary schools. Below, is a list of school types with the questionnaires administered for each type. The levels at which estimates are reliable for each school type are also listed.

Public Schools: SASS surveys traditional public schools and public charter schools, including school districts, schools, principals, teachers and, library media centers. Public charter schools, state-run schools, schools that are the only school in a district, and schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs receive a questionnaire that contains both school-level and district-level items. The public school data are reliable at the national, regional, and state levels. Public charter school data are reliable at the national and regional level.
Private Schools: Private school data are collected on schools, principals, and teachers. Private school data are reliable at the national, regional, and affiliation levels.

For more information about the survey content, including PDF files of the questionnaires and descriptions of each type of questionnaire, go to the Questionnaires page.

The Principal Follow-Up Survey (PFS)

The Principal Follow-up Survey (PFS), first conducted in school year 2008–09, is a component of the 2007–08 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). NCES created the PFS in order to provide attrition rates for principals in K-12 public, private, and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools. The goal of the 2008–09 PFS was to assess how many principals in school year 2007–08 still worked as a principal in the same school in the 2008–09 school year, how many had moved to become a principal in another school, and how many had left the principalship altogether. Another goal was to measure, from those who left the principalship, what percentage retired or sought work in another occupational field. The PFS sample included all schools whose principals completed questionnaires in SASS. Schools that had returned a completed 2007–08 SASS principal questionnaire were mailed the PFS form in the spring of 2009. The PFS questionnaire is available online and can be downloaded from the Questionnaires page.

The Teacher Follow–up Survey (TFS)

The purpose of the Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) is to determine how many teachers remained at the same school, moved to another school, or left the profession in the year following the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) administration. The 2008–09 TFS was administered to a sample of teachers who completed the SASS in the previous year. The majority of the TFS is a web-based survey, but it also has paper component. The 2008–09 TFS was different from any previous TFS administration in that it was a primarily web-based survey and also served as the second wave of the Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study. Because of this, the 2008–09 TFS consists of four questionnaires. Two are for respondents who were first-year public school teachers in the 2007–08 SASS and two are for the remainder of the sample. Within those two groups, there is one questionnaire for teachers who left teaching since the previous SASS (Former Teacher Questionnaire) and another for those who are still currently teaching either in the same school as last year or in a different school (Current Teacher Questionnaire). The additional data collected of beginning public school teachers are not included on the 2008–09 TFS data files but can be found in the BTLS Restricted-Use Data file. The topics for the Current Teacher questionnaire include teaching status and assignments, ratings of various aspects of teaching, information on decisions to change schools, and ratings of various strategies for retaining more teachers. The topics for the Former Teacher questionnaire include employment status, ratings of various aspects of teaching and their current jobs, and information on decisions to leave teaching. The questionnaires for each round of TFS are available online and can be downloaded from the Questionnaires page.

Data Processing and Privacy Protection

Once the Census Bureau receives the completed survey forms, staff enter responses from the surveys into electronic data files, which are checked against the survey forms for accuracy. Names, addresses, and other identifying information for schools, principals, teachers, library staff, and districts are removed from the files to protect respondents’ confidentiality.

When the respondents’ identifying information is removed from the data files, a school identification number is used to connect principal and teacher data to data from the schools in which they work. Only users who have official clearance from NCES may have access to data files that include data from Bureau of Indian Affairs schools or data that allow analysts to connect sampled schools, teachers, or principals to the school districts with which they are associated.

Three federal laws protect the confidentiality of all individually identifiable information collected by NCES–authorized surveys, of which SASS is one: the National Education Statistics Act of 1994, as amended, the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Computer Security Act of 1987. In particular, the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, as amended, prohibits any of these activities:

  • Producing any publication in which data furnished by any particular individual can be identified; or
  • Permitting any person not authorized by the NCES Commissioner to examine any individual data or reports.

A violation of any of these restrictions is a felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to five years, and a fine up to $250,000.

Data Use and Publications

The SASS data are used by a wide variety of people interested in K–12 education, including teacher professional organizations, private school associations, education advocacy groups, legislators, researchers, and journalists. For example, U.S. Department of Education staff have used SASS data in testimony before Congress, and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future has made extensive use of SASS data in its work on teacher professional development.

The new Online Bibliography Search Tool can be searched for publications featuring data from SASS. It includes citations published from 2005 to August 2010. Do you need to add a new citation? Email Kathryn Chandler.

Older published research can be found in this publication: Secondary Use of the Schools and Staffing Survey Data (NCES 199917).