NCES Releases Second Version of Common Education Data Standards
NCES Releases Second Version of Common Education Data Standards

NCES Releases Second Version of Common Education Data Standards 
February 2012

On January 31, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the second version of its Common Education Data Standards, better known as CEDS. NCES developed these voluntary standards in collaboration with key stakeholders to simplify the sharing of data. An expansion of Version 1, which was released in September 2010, CEDS Version 2 incorporates a Data Model and an Alignment Tool to increase the efficiency of data sharing and to institute a common vocabulary across P–20 education institutions and sectors.

The standards comprise several components:

  • 5 Domains: management levels, such as Early Learning, K12, and Assessments, at which data are maintained
  • 31 Entities: contexts for the data elements, including Student, School, and Assessment
  • 628 Elements: attributes of entities (names and definitions) that define individual data
  • 1,005 Element-Entity Pairings: recommended responses for an element, such as “Hispanic” or “Latino,” “Yes” or “No”
  • 22 Use Cases: practical applications of the elements, for example, to transcripts or other data initiatives

Together, these pieces provide a common language for use by schools, governments, and researchers to communicate education data.

CEDS was created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provided funding to develop educational longitudinal data systems and tasked NCES with assisting states in the development process, using the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program to support data system enhancement. CEDS was a supplemental project, bringing together myriad stakeholders, including state agencies, local education agencies, universities, and community colleges.

Although CEDS is a national effort, the adoption of the standards is voluntary. Individual stakeholders may use them as they see fit, in part or in whole. CEDS is not a data repository; the use of the standards simply allows individual stakeholders to apply the new vocabulary to work at any level, to reach any objective.

Version 2 emphasizes the further development of the CEDS elements, including the Data Model and the Alignment Tool. The Data Model organizes the elements into schemata that are classified by domain (Early Learning, Elementary and Secondary Education, Postsecondary Education, Assessments, and Learning Standards) and by relationships and interactions (e.g., Person 1 is a K12 Teacher, Postsecondary Student, and Parent of Person 2, who is a Secondary Student). The Alignment Tool allows users to upload and compare their data systems with CEDS. Using this tool, they can visualize where current elements of their systems align with or differ from the CEDS vocabulary.

CEDS is intended to address the need among educators, researchers, and policy makers to communicate in a shared language. Such a “dictionary” may streamline access to and application of P-20 education data, eliminate inconsistencies in definitions, and ensure that stakeholders across sectors can work effectively toward shared educational outcomes.

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