Every year, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes another volume of The Condition of Education. Each volume covers educational issues of interest for the past year, and addresses what I consider fascinating data. Tables and graphs abound, and explanations are clear and unbiased. Want to know the dropout rate this year in comparison to that of 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Want to know how many of them finished college? If the graph is not in this issue, check last year’s. Want graphic depictions of the growth of certain ethnic populations? In any two consecutive volumes, the data are provided as charts, as graphs, as tables, as trending plots–whatever works best for a given reader is right there. Want to know what kids who were in preschool 16 years ago are doing now? There’s a graph for that–along with a table, a breakdown activities, comparisons of family SES at the time, etc.
The minute I am in a position to advise a graduate student on where to start for information on an educational issue, I have them go to NCES and check the latest Condition of Education. Now, most graduate students fear statistics. However, there is so much information provided in graphic form in these volumes, that the reader can easily forget that he or she is “reading” statistics. If more information is needed, there are reports using more sophisticated analysis methods that are available for use in conjunction with or independent of the Condition of Education. I’ve been a regular visitor to and user of the NCES web information for years. This is not just a site to which I send students; it is my own starting point for information relating to any level of education and any topic related to these levels.
Very little of the information in any issue of the Condition of Education is analyzed beyond “descriptive statistics,” giving averages, standard scores, percentiles, proportions, and various measure of reliability. However, that’s a lot of information right there. Plus, NCES gives access to the databases represented by the information so that further analyses can be performed by interested parties.
So. Here we have open access to incredible amounts of information representing not only education but also basic population trends (the Condition of Education always includes census data, data from other government departments–such as labor, and even international data). Yet, media often report on educational issues without background checks for their data, as though the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the agency that oversees NCES data, had no data to share. The same goes for many academic “reporters” on educational issues and education researchers. Yet, here is a rich site of information that is just waiting to be exploited. And the information covers anything even vaguely related to education.
Here is the description of the newest volume that just came out last week:
The Condition of Education 2012 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data. The report presents 49 indicators on the status and condition of education, in addition to a closer look at high schools in the United States over the past twenty years.. The indicators represent a consensus of professional judgment on the most significant national measures of the condition and progress of education for which accurate data are available. The 2012 print edition includes indicators in three main areas: (1) participation in education; (2) elementary and secondary education and outcomes; and (3) postsecondary education and outcomes.
Interested in learning more? Here is the link to The Condition of Education 2012.
Check it out!!
And while you’re there, browse the other publications–both printed and electronic–that’s available to you for free. Remember: if you request hard-copy publications, you don’t even pay a postage fee.
Meanwhile, if the link above does not work, copy and paste the following URL into your browser.