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Below you will find the answers to those questions about NRS that are most frequently raised by State and local adult education staff.

This section is periodically updated by the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education.

Q. What is the National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS)?

Q. When did the NRS begin and why?

Q. Are all states required to report data to the NRS?

Q. How can I learn more about reporting requirements and how to complete the NRS tables at my program?

Q. Where can I learn more about how the implementation of NRS works, such as how to improve the quality of my program data?

Q. Can the GED practice test be used to determine initial placement and/or completion of an educational functioning level?

Q. If a State correlates the educational functioning level descriptors to the test objectives of standardized community college entrance exams, such as Compass, Acuplacer, or Asset, can those tests be used to determine initial placement and/or level completion?

Q. In the absence of a posttest score, can the TOEFL be used to document completion of ESL functioning levels if the learner’s score is high enough for acceptance into college?

Q. Can the successful completion of the official GED test be used to validate level completion of an educational functioning level?

Q. Why is initial placement so important in reporting educational gain under the NRS?

Q. What is the definition of “contact or attendance hours”?

Q. Do we have to follow the 12–30-hour framework for work-based project learners?

Q. Are work-based project learners included in the performance reporting system?

Q. We have a number of adults, especially those taking the GED test, who do not complete the GED test until after the annual report is submitted on December 31st of each year. Is there any way to report outcomes for students after the report has been submitted?

Q. If a student enrolls for computer literacy only or any course in which the student is not co-enrolled in an academic-based program, should the student:
  1. be assigned an educational functioning level based on the functional and workplace skill descriptors related to computers (using a standardized performance assessment); or
  2. be designated a work-based project learner (if the computer instruction does not exceed 30 hours); or
  3. be given an academic standardized test to determine the educational functioning level?

 

Q. What is the National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS)?

A. The National Reporting System (NRS) is the accountability system for the Federally funded adult education program, mandated by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The NRS includes student measures to describe adult education students, program participation and assessment of the impact of adult education instruction, methodologies for collecting the measures, reporting forms and procedures, and training and technical assistance activities to assist states in collecting the measures.

With the help of State directors of adult education, the project has developed indicators of performance to demonstrate State adult education agencies’ impact, and has developed a national system for collecting information on adult education student outcomes. The NRS requirements were effective beginning in July 2000.

Learn more about the NRS on our About NRS page.

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Q. When did the NRS begin and why?

A. The NRS was born in the 1990's, a decade known for its emphasis on accountability of Federal programs. The requirement to demonstrate program impact was mandated in 1993 through the Government Performance and Review Act (GPRA). GPRA required all Federal agencies to develop strategic plans to ensure that services were delivered efficiently and in a manner that best suits client needs, and to develop indicators of performance to demonstrate their agency's impact. In August 1998, WIA required a system of outcome measures and performance standards for adult education programs, which led to the formal adoption of the NRS.

To learn more about the history of the NRS, please refer to the NRS Implementation Guidelines document, which you may download from the Web site.

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Q. Are all states required to report data to the NRS?

A. Yes, all states are required to report data to the NRS for services funded within the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). In addition, the WIA requires States to develop performance standards for student outcome measures and assess local program effectiveness using these standards.

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Q. How can I learn more about reporting requirements and how to complete the NRS tables at my program?

A. Consult with your State adult agency to learn more about specific requirements for your local program to collect data for the NRS. In addition, you may view the NRS Implementation Guidelines to learn more about the NRS measures, data flow, methodologies, and reporting.

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Q. Where can I learn more about how the implementation of NRS works, such as how to improve the quality of my program data?

A. The NRSWeb site offers a variety of materials and resources to help program administrators and state staff learn about the NRS requirements and how to use data, improve data quality, monitor programs, and build a better data system. You can find these resources in two ways: 1) by topic through the main menu bar to find guides, training materials, webinars, and online training courses for specific subject matter, or 2) by visiting the Training & Activities page for specific types of resources.

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Q. Can the GED practice test be used to determine initial placement and/or completion of an educational functioning level?

A. No. At a minimum, it must be established that the GED practice tests or any tests used for placement and to validate level completion have been designed to measure educational gain; the content and skills being measured are consistent with the NRS and appropriate for State use; the test has multiple forms that can generate valid pre- and posttest comparisons; the test can be cross-walked with the NRS levels: and, in the case of the GED practice tests, the answer keys are secure (not available to the general public). OCTAE is currently working with the GED Testing Service to determine if the GED practice tests meet these criteria.

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Q. If a State correlates the educational functioning level descriptors to the test objectives of standardized community college entrance exams, such as Compass, Acuplacer, or Asset, can those tests be used to determine initial placement and/or level completion?

A. No. At a minimum, it must be established that these tests, or any such tests, have been designed to measure educational gain; the content or skills being measured by the tests are consistent with the NRS and appropriate for State use; and the tests have multiple forms that can generate valid pre- and posttest comparisons. In addition, the test publishers must cross-walk the tests to the NRS levels.

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Q. In the absence of a posttest score, can the TOEFL be used to document completion of ESL functioning levels if the learner’s score is high enough for acceptance into college?

A. No. Educational gain is determined by posttesting on a different, but equivalent, form of the same test used for initial placement. Using one test for the pretest and another test for the posttest does not produce a valid measure of educational gain. It is essential to follow standard assessment protocols to ensure valid test results (e.g., the test content is appropriate; there are multiple versions or forms of the test for pre- and posttesting; and the pre- and posttests are conducted under like conditions).

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Q. Can the successful completion of the official GED test be used to validate level completion of an educational functioning level?

A. No. Successful completion of the GED test cannot be used to validate educational gain and subsequent level completion. However, because the high adult secondary education level is not part of the performance system (i.e., States do not submit a performance target for high ASE, and OCTAE does not report State or national data on the completion rates of high ASE), enrollees' completion of high adult secondary education may be validated by their successful completion of the GED (based on State score requirements for earning the GED credential). The ultimate decision to use successful passage of the GED test to validate completion of high adult secondary education is a State decision.

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Q. Why is initial placement so important in reporting educational gain under the NRS?

A. The initial assessment is the basis for placing students in an entering educational functioning level. This is the baseline upon which programs measure student learning gains. Programs should administer the initial assessments at a prescheduled time shortly after enrollment. This time may be set by State policy or by the local program, but it is usually within a few weeks of enrollment. Regardless of the date for initial assessment, it should be uniformly administered to all students to ensure results can be compared across the student population.

Using the results from the initial assessment, programs should place students in the appropriate NRS educational functioning level. Programs do not need to use all of the areas described in level descriptors to place students, but should use the area(s) most relevant to the student’s needs and the program’s curriculum. For example, if the student’s goal is to improve reading skills, the scores from a reading test can serve as the basis for placement. However, if multiple skill areas are assessed and the student has differing abilities in each area assessed, NRS policy requires that the program place the student according to the lowest skill area. Educational gain and subsequent level advancement are measured from this initial placement.

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Q. What is the definition of “contact or attendance hours”?

A. The definition of contact or attendance hours, for NRS reporting purposes, is hours of instruction or instructional activity the learner receives from the program. Instructional activity includes any program-sponsored activity designed to promote student learning in the program curriculum, such as classroom instruction, assessment, tutoring, or participation in a learning lab. (Note: Time spent on assessment can be counted only if the assessment is designed to inform placement decisions, assess progress, or inform instruction. Time used to take the GED test, for example, cannot be counted as instructional activity.)

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Q. Do we have to follow the 12–30-hour framework for work-based project learners?

A. Yes, the 12–30-hour rule is a basic requirement for the work-based project learner program and cannot be altered.

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Q. Are work-based project learners included in the performance reporting system?

A. No. Work-based project learners, as defined under NRS guidelines, are not included in the performance accountability system. Performance targets are not established for the work-based project learners, and information related to these learners is reported through optional reporting tables included in the NRS report. The project learner designation is being allowed on a “pilot” basis to determine the size and scope of this program approach across the national system. At the conclusion of the pilot (4 years), a decision will be made concerning the future status of the project learner category.

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Q. We have a number of adults, especially those taking the GED test, who do not complete the GED test until after the annual report is submitted on December 31st of each year. Is there any way to report outcomes for students after the report has been submitted?

A. Yes. Table 13 of the annual performance report was adopted specifically to report core outcomes achieved but not reported in the previous year’s report. Table 13 also shows that States can report on core outcomes achieved by students who had not previously established the outcome as a goal. In addition, a State may submit a revision to its annual report at any time. Certain milestones, however, such as confirmation of incentive awards (which normally is concluded by the end of March); the report to Congress; and submission of the annual GPRA performance report to Congress, that once passed, cannot be revisited or changed to reflect revised data submissions.

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Q. If a student enrolls for computer literacy only or any course in which the student is not co-enrolled in an academic-based program, should the student:
  1. be assigned an educational functioning level based on the functional and workplace skill descriptors related to computers (using a standardized performance assessment); or
  2. be designated a work-based project learner (if the computer instruction does not exceed 30 hours); or
  3. be given an academic standardized test to determine the educational functioning level?

A. It is possible that each of the scenarios described could be appropriate policy or procedure. For example, if State policy requires computer literacy to be offered as part of a comprehensive basic skills curriculum and students must be enrolled in the general ABE program to be allowed to take computer literacy training, scenario 3 would be appropriate. If a State offers basic computer literacy as a separate basic skills offering and does not require enrollment in the general basic skills program, scenario 1 would be appropriate (provided there are standardized assessments available and the publisher has cross-walked these assessments to the NRS). If a State supports project learner programs and the computer literacy skills were job related, scenario 3 would be appropriate and allowable under NRS guidelines.

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For more questions contact us.

The National Reporting System for Adult Education (NRS) is administered by the Division of Adult Education and Literacy in the Office of Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.