ED Announces National Survey to Gather Critical Data on School Reopening

ED Announces National Survey to Gather Critical Data on School Reopening

February 5, 2021

To help safely reopen America's schools and promote educational equity, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education today announced the largest representative and highest-quality effort yet to gather vital data on the impact of COVID-19 on students and the status of in-person learning.

Currently, there is not enough data to understand the status of school re-opening and how students are learning nationwide. This project, known as the "NAEP 2021 School Survey," will collect high-quality data from a nationally and state-representative sample.

Today's announcement follows President Biden's Jan. 21 Executive Order to ensure "the collection of data necessary to fully understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students and educators, including data on the status of in-person learning.  These data shall be disaggregated by student demographics, including race, ethnicity, disability, English-language-learner status, and free or reduced lunch status or other appropriate indicators of family income."

IES's National Center for Education Statistics – the highest-quality education data source in the nation – will oversee the survey collection, which is designed to collect vital data with the least possible burden on schools. Data gathered in the survey will include:

  • The share of the nation's schools that are open with full-time in-person instruction, open with online and in-person instruction, or fully remote.
  • Enrollment by instructional mode by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, English learner status, and disability status.
  • Attendance rates by instructional mode by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, English learner status, disability status, and housing status.
  • Frequency of in-person learning for students.
  • Average number of hours of synchronous instruction for students in remote instruction mode. And,
  • Student groups prioritized by schools for in-person instruction by selected school characteristics. 

"It's critically important to get a sense of how students are learning," said James Lynn Woodworth, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics. "NCES will use this data to both provide the most accurate immediate view about school operating statuses and to better interpret the impact of current school operations on the results of the NAEP assessments scheduled to be conducted in 2022."

"President Biden is committed to the safe reopening of schools and to addressing the educational disparities and inequities that the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated," said Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. "To do that, we need more information about how students are learning during this pandemic – and we simply don't have it right now. The administration, educators, parents, and education leaders need meaningful data in order to achieve these critical goals and this survey will give them that."

The survey will collect data from approximately 3,500 schools that enroll fourth-graders and an equal number of schools that enroll eighth-graders. The public will have access to the highest-quality data about school reopenings for in-person instruction and how students are learning. Results will be collected monthly beginning this month and running through June, and key findings will be reported.

The study will maximize the use of federal dollars by utilizing the existing online data collection systems and infrastructure used for the Nation's Report Card, also known as NAEP.