Common Education Data Standards

Key Resources 

The Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) is an initiative to create a “common vocabulary” of definitions, formats, and code sets for key data elements shared across K-12 and postsecondary education. This effort is led by two separate but aligned groups:

  1. A stakeholder group convened by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) charged with developing the standards.

  2. A consortium of key educational stakeholders responsible for advocacy, communications, adoption and implementation of the standards.

CEDS Version 1.0 was released on September 10, 2010 with a focus on K-12 data elements. Version 1.0 can be accessed from the CEDS website hosted by NCES.

CEDS Version 2.0 (currently in draft) extends the list of data elements with refinements to those released in version 1.0 and the addition of new data elements with a deliberate focus on postsecondary data.
The communications and adoption efforts related to these standards are supported by the CEDS Consortium, a coalition of non-governmental education stakeholders that is enthusiastically supporting the work. The Consortium is led by the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and is supporting the CEDS Initiative with the mission of (1) communicating and advocating about CEDS to the K-12 and postsecondary communities and (2) promoting adoption and implementation of CEDS within and across those education environments. The consortium web site includes a wealth of information about the standards, how they might help your institution or organization, and how you might become involved in their adoption and implementation.

Why should Institutional Researchers stay abreast of CEDS developments?

  • CEDS version 2 focuses on the data elements an institution/system uses to complete the IPEDS student-related survey components (Completions, Fall Enrollment, 12-Month Enrollment, GRS, GR200, and Student Financial Aid). The CEDS definitions can be used voluntarily by institutions establishing their own data files and by vendors that provide data management software for use in postsecondary education institutions.

  • CEDS version 2 includes some useful tools including a data alignment tool which can be used to assist in comparing your data dictionary with that of other organizations and, of course, the CEDS standard.

  • Using established standards should help improve the accuracy of institutions following IPEDS reporting instructions and thus improve data quality and usefulness. IR Officers can voluntarily use these data definitions to establish their own IPEDS-related extract databases and/or create “crosswalks” from institutional data collection practices to the standard definitions widely used in external reporting.

  • As states increasingly collect data on postsecondary education, these standards can inform state systems that follow the same data definitions and code sets used in other data collections.

Important Reminders:

  • CEDS is NOT a new database or reporting requirement. The standards are intended to provide uniform definitions and code sets to reduce reporting burden for institutions that are asked to submit data to more than one entity.

  • CEDS standards can be used by institutions when they create datasets for a variety of purposes (e.g., different datasets needed to calculate aggregate data for various IPEDS Surveys; files that must be submitted to the state or other collection agencies). CEDS is not designed to be the basis for a single mega-database but rather different subsets of CEDS elements can be used in a variety of data extracts (e.g., IPEDS Fall Enrollment data from the census file, degrees awarded over a fiscal year for IPEDS Completions reporting, cohorts for IPEDS Graduation Rates survey component reporting, files sent to the state or other entities, and files for consistent internal reporting by departments using an institution’s data warehouse).

  • Sometimes the same “structure,” definitions, and values are used for different variations of the same type of element (e.g., for multiple addresses, different types of financial aid). When the same structure is shared by multiple elements, CEDS links pairs or larger clusters of elements, including one element that indicates the “type” of cluster (e.g., type of address, type of financial aid). Having multiple types allows for coding an individual who has more than one of these clusters of elements (e.g., multiple addresses and multiple financial aid awards) while ensuring uniformity of formats and values. It also allows the number of repetitions to vary by student (e.g., some students will have more types of financial aid than others).

  • CEDS elements can be included in extract files by creating computer “crosswalks” that translate institutional data elements and values into CEDS data elements and values (i.e., to use CEDS, an institution does not need to recode its existing database but rather can simply recode existing data to crosswalk to the standards).

  • The CEDS standards do not limit institutions or states from collecting additional levels of data. Additional data elements can be developed so that they “roll up” to the CEDS standards when properly combined (see “crosswalk” above).

  • CEDS includes data elements for both K-12 and postsecondary education so it is unlikely that an organization will use all the CEDS elements. Some postsecondary elements are appropriate for certain sectors but not for others (e.g., a transfer-out flag is not relevant for some four-year institutions). Furthermore, some elements will apply to only select students so there will not be a value for every data element for every student. In situations where data are shared between the K-12 and postsecondary sectors, the common definitions will improve that sharing.

  • Many of the definitions that are used for postsecondary elements come from IPEDS definitions and federal regulations that cannot be changed. If an element is required for IPEDS reporting, the CEDS definition will align with the IPEDS definition.

Information on this page is intended to inform AIR members about CEDS development and to link members to the official CEDS website. These notes are intended to be accurate, but AIR acts as an interested outside party to the CEDS initiative and so is not authorized to speak for the CEDS initiative. AIR thanks NCES and SHEEO staff and AIR members who serve as consultants and stakeholders in developing the Common Education Data Standards.