Published Online: April 30, 1997

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Six Years Later, NCES Issues Indicator Report

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Washington

Nearly six years after it was advised to do so, the Department of Education's statistics center has issued the first in a series of reports on education-related data.

"Education and the Economy," released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics, synthesizes and interprets existing indicators on such issues as historical trends in worker productivity in the United States and other countries, the economic consequences of educational attainment, and the link between worker training and productivity. Subscribe to Teacher Magazine

The new report was prompted by recommendations issued in 1991 by the congressionally mandated Special Study Panel on Education Indicators.

The panel called for the Education Department to revamp the statistics agency to create an "education information system" that would focus on six broad issues: learner outcomes, the quality of education institutions, children's readiness for school, societal support for learning, education and economic productivity, and equity. ("E.D. Urged To Revamp N.C.E.S. To Create 'Information System'," Oct. 2, 1991.)

Last week's study, which cost about $350,000, is expected to be the first of several indicator reports. In its introduction, Pascal D. Forgione Jr., the commissioner of education statistics, said that federal officials chose the link between education and economic productivity as the topic for the first report because this is a "time of concern about U.S. economic competitiveness."

Reasons for Delay

The report took six years to pull together, Mr. Forgione said in an interview, in part because it represented a new type of undertaking for the agency. Collecting data from sources outside the agency was also time-consuming, he said, as was reviewing the literature in economics, and--in a delicate area for a government statistics agency--interpreting the data.

The study uses 19 indicators to provide information on how education and economic productivity are linked both on a national basis and for individuals. "This report makes it quite clear that there is a good return on the investment for those individuals who finish high school, get some form of college education, and then keep on learning new skills," Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in a prepared statement.

The statistics center may report next on the quality of education institutions, said John Ralph, the NCES program director for data development.

For information on ordering the report, call the National Library of Education at (800) 424-1616. Copies are expected to be available through the Government Printing Office at (202) 512-1800, and on the department's World Wide Web site: http://www.ed.gov/NCES/.

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