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Information Quality Guidelines

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The Department of Education reports data that rely upon information provided by third parties. These data draw upon aggregates from student record systems or other administrative data (e.g., universe studies, including censuses, and other reports based on aggregate administrative data). These data rely upon information provided by third parties. Because of this, the Department does not have full control over the quality of the reported data; the Department intends to, however, identify the source of the information and any shortcomings or limitations of the data if we rely upon it for decision-making purposes. This will facilitate the public's understanding of the strengths and potential weaknesses of these data. Furthermore, as an additional insurance of quality, these data should meet the criteria that are being developed as part of an ongoing Department-wide data standardization and coordination initiative. At a minimum, these standards will require the following:

  1. In formulating a data collection plan the goals of the study should be clearly described;
  2. The subjects to be studied and the data to be collected should be clearly defined, using broadly understood concepts and definitions that are consistent with Department data definition handbooks;
  3. The research study approach or data collection techniques should be well thought out and designed to use state-of-the-art methodologies in the data collection, and should be clearly described in the study documentation;
  4. In designing the work, every effort should be made to minimize the amount of time required for responding institutions;
  5. The source of research information or data should be reliable. Data should be collected with survey instruments that have been properly developed and tested;
  6. Response rates should be monitored during data collection. When necessary, appropriate steps should be taken to ensure the respondents are representative of the population;
  7. When applicable, care should be taken to ensure the confidentiality of personally identifiable data, as required by law, during the collection, processing, and analysis of the data;
  8. Upon completion of the work, the findings and data should be processed in a manner sufficient to ensure that the data are edited to help ensure that the data are accurate and reliable;
  9. The findings and data collection should be properly documented and stored, and the documentation should include an evaluation of the quality of the data with a description of any limitations of the data. In particular, any known limitations of the information should be documented (e.g., missing values, amount of nonresponse);
  10. The analysis should be selected and implemented to ensure that the data are correctly analyzed using modern statistical techniques suitable for hypothesis testing. Techniques may vary from simple tabulations and descriptive analysis to multivariate analysis of complex interrelationships. Care should be taken to ensure that the techniques are appropriate for the data and the questions under inquiry;
  11. All work should be conducted and released in a timely manner;
  12. Reports using these data should identify the source(s) of the information, including a citation. Reports should also include:
    1. The reason the information is provided, its potential uses, and cautions as to inappropriate extractions or conclusions.
    2. Descriptions of any statistical techniques or mathematical operations applied to the data.
    3. The identification of other possible sources of potentially corroborating or conflicting information; and
  13. Prior to dissemination, all reports, data, and documentation should undergo editorial and technical review to ensure accuracy and clarity.
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Last Modified: 10/17/2005