National Academies Report on NCES Recommends Strategic Plan, Collaborations to Ensure NCES Independence and Relevance

April 2022

On April 7, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released A Vision and Roadmap for Education Statistics. The report is a response to a request from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to provide recommendations for a future vision for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the statistical activities it conducts. This report is the final of three that IES commissioned as part of the agency’s 20th anniversary to inform IES’s future work.

As part of the scope, the NASEM committee was asked to consider recent trends and future priorities and to suggest changes to NCES’s portfolio of activities and products, operations, staffing, and use of contractors. The report contains several key recommendations for NCES to set priorities and for collaborations with IES and the broader Department of Education to ensure the independence of statistical activities.

The overarching recommendation is for NCES to develop a strategic plan. As part of this recommendation, the panel identified several key areas to consider in the strategic planning process, such as promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility; exploring data sources to support analytic insights; and aligning the operations and the organization to support NCES’s mission and vision.

One key recommendation called for the secretary of education, IES director, and NCES commissioner to collaborate to ensure that NCES is independent in developing, producing, and disseminating statistics. This recommendation aligns with ongoing work by AERA, the American Statistical Association, and the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, among others, on efforts for NCES to produce high-quality, trustworthy statistics without undue interference.

“We are impressed with the work of the Academies panel and the many forward-looking recommendations in this report that build on the strengths of NCES and recognize its significant leadership role in education statistics,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “Particularly, we applaud the panel for providing recommendations to promote the independence of NCES activities as part of the federal statistical systems, as well as a charge for NCES to examine new data sources and modernize language around privacy and consent to facilitate secondary analyses of the data collected.”

The report also calls on NCES to provide recommendations to Congress after an examination of the mandates on data NCES collects. This action would allow for resources to be shifted to emerging priorities from areas where data collection may no longer be needed.