About the Handbooks
Education agencies and institutions collect and maintain information to help the education system function efficiently and effectively. Standardized data available to education agency officials can:
- Assist in the development of sound educational policies at all levels.
- Improve the quality of instruction and boost student achievement.
- Help compare information among communities and among states.
- Improve the accuracy and timeliness of nationwide summaries of information about education systems.
- Improve the quality and significance of education research-locally, statewide, and nationwide.
- Enhance reporting to the public about the condition and progress of education.
The U.S. Department of Education has been involved in a number of efforts focused on improving the quality and comparability of data collected at the local, state, and national levels. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has taken the lead in many of these efforts. NCES has a mandate to collect "uniform and comparable data" in order to report on the condition of education in the United States. To assist in this mandate, NCES works with federal, state, and local education agency representatives and researchers to develop guidelines for the collection of comparable and complete data.
NCES developed a series of data handbooks to provide guidance on consistency in data definitions and maintenance of education data, so that such data can be accurately aggregated and analyzed. The handbooks are intended to serve as reference documents for public and private education agencies, schools, early childhood centers, and other educational institutions, as well as by researchers involved in the collection of education data. In addition, the handbooks may be useful to elected officials and members of the public who have an interest in education information. The handbooks are NOT, however, data collection instruments, nor do they reflect any type of federal data maintenance requirements.
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