Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Data

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), Office of Planning and Research (OPR)

Currently collected to ensure compliance with state and federal education laws, DESE maintains a variety of student-level data sets including information on all students receiving public funds for elementary and secondary education in the state of Massachusetts. Data include student academic performance including standardized tests scores, English proficiency, behavioral records, attendance, and post-graduation plans, among a variety of additional information regarding both public school students and teachers.

Unit of Observation:
Personally Identifiable Information Available for Linking:
Massachusetts, United States of America
Years Available:
MCAS 1998 – presentSIMS 2002 – presentEPIMS 2007 – presentSCS 2010 – presentSSDR 2012 – present
Frequency of Updates:

Students served by the Massachusetts public elementary and secondary education system.


This database is available to researchers affiliated with an academic institution or an independent, nonpartisan research group. On occasion, other public agencies and DESE-contracted private firms, such as testing organizations, may access DESE data. Individual-level data (on students and educators) are available by application.

Initial contact should be directed to the Office of Planning and Research at [email protected] to determine whether the proposed research project meets the basic criteria for data sharing. Researchers must then submit a proposal that includes all relevant details of the research project, explicitly states how the research purpose aligns with the strategic priorities of DESE or will inform future policy decisions, and outlines what data are being requested and how the data will be used.

Once the proposal is approved, researchers must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that details the data-sharing agreement and the procedures that researchers agree to implement to ensure the security of the requested data. Researchers must comply with requirements and limitations outlined by the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Massachusetts Fair Information Practices Act (FIPA). Following the establishment of the MOU, OPR requests the data from the Data Analysis and Reporting group, and the data are delivered to the researcher in a secure portal. A draft of any presentations or publications that use DESE data must be supplied to OPR at least thirty days prior to release to ensure that no confidential data are included.

In the event that researchers are not able to meet DESE research requirements for access to personally identifying information, de-identified student-level data and aggregated data are available to the public.

Timeline for Access

Review and approval of the initial application generally takes between a few weeks and one month. Establishing and agreeing upon the data-sharing terms included in the MOU may take between a few weeks and a few months. Once these steps are complete, it can take between a few days to two weeks to receive data. In total, several months may elapse between submission of the initial application to receipt of data. The Data Analysis and Reporting group’s primary responsibility is to fulfill federal and state data reporting requirements, so the timeline for data requests tends to be longer around the time that annual reports are due.

Any data that have identifiable information that comes from DESE must be returned or destroyed within the twelve months following research publication.

Lag Time

Record submission varies between DESE data sets; however, data are typically submitted following the beginning and end of each school year. 


There is no cost associated with accessing these data from DESE.


The data-linking process is typically determined on a case-by-case basis; however, it is preferred that researchers link the data themselves, so long as the procedure is compliant with laws to protect student data confidentiality. The primary exception to this preference would apply to researchers interested in working with graduation cohort data in which it is more efficient for OPR to provide the linked file themselves. In the event that OPR is performing the link, they will remove identifiers from the data set after linking, unless the identifiers are explicitly necessary for the research project.

Researchers may request a sample based off a description of the desired cohort (e.g., “All students aged 10-15 of English Language Learner status”).

Identifiers Available for Linking

  • Date of birth
  • First and last name
  • Massachusetts Education Personnel Identifier (MEPID)

Linking to Outside Data Sources

DESE has contracts with external data providers including the College Board, the National Student Clearinghouse, and local education authorities. In addition, DESE houses data provided by the state’s testing contractors: Measured Progress, Educational Testing Service (ETS), and the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Consortium. These relationships allow DESE to measure its students’ standardized testing performance, college enrollment and persistence, and other data. 

Data Contents

DESE hosts a variety of both aggregated and individual-level data sets. The individual-level data sets range in content and availability, some data sets include student data and others include educator data. DESE’s data management system aggregates information on all students attending public schools or schools that receive public funds for education in Massachusetts. Most data are reported by students and parents/guardians, collected by the local districts, and housed by DESE. Brief descriptions of each data set are provided below. 

Student Information Management System (SIMS): SIMS collects data on high school completion status, attendance, and student demographics.

Student Course Schedules (SCS): SCS collects data on student course enrollment, completion, and performance. This data set allows for linkages between students and teachers.

Student Safety Discipline Report (SSDR): SSDR collects data on all student disciplinary records, including all drug-,violence-, and criminal-related offenses that occur on school property.

Education Personnel Information Management System (EPIMS): EPIMS collects demographic and work assignment data on educators and school administrators.

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS): MCAS collects data on student performance on all standardized state testing in English language arts, mathematics, and science.

National Student Clearinghouse (NSC): NSC provides data to DESE on nearly all recent graduate college enrollment, persistence, and completion and also provides limited information regarding degrees sought. Please find more information on the NSC here.

In addition, data include student performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), Advanced Placement (AP) test scores, and Massachusetts English Language Proficiency (MEPA) and ACCESS for ELs assessment scores, homeless status, and other data on students and teachers.

Partial List of Variables

For a detailed list and description of all available data elements, please reference Appendix A of the DESE Data Collection and Use Policies. Comprised below is a partial list of the available data elements categorized by data set.

Student Information Management System (SIMS): Local- and State-Assigned identifiers, enrollment status, city/town of residence, school identification number, grade level, days in attendance, low-income status (until spring 2015)/economically disadvantaged (as of fall 2015), Title I participation, immigration status, English language learner status, career/vocational technical education competency attainment, special education placement, high school completion plans.

Student Course Schedule (SCS): Local course code, subject area-course code, class section, course term, course enrollment status, course level, course credit available, course letter and numeric mark.

School Safety and Discipline Report (SSDR): Incident date, discipline indicator, count of student victims and offenders, count of school personnel victims, count of offenders, disciplinary actions taken, start date of discipline, appeal indicator, education services indicator

Education Personnel Information Management System (EPIMS): License/certification number, Massachusetts Education Personnel Identifier (MEPID), employment status, exit data, reason for exit, date of hire, federal salary sources, degree type, degree institution, degree subject, summative and formative evaluation rating, staff days of attendance, staff expected days of attendance, assignment location code, job classification, grade, subject area-course code, class section, full time equivalent, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) instructional paraprofessional requirements, highly qualified teacher status, subject matter competency, course term, term status at time of collection.

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS): Booklet numbers, assessments taken, item-level results, accommodations received and overall performance levels for state standardized assessments in English language arts, mathematics and science.

J-PAL Randomized Evaluations Using this Data Set

Abdulkadiroglu, Atila, Josh Angrist, Susan Dynarski, Thomas J. Kane and Parag Pathak. 2011. “Accountability and Flexibility in Public Schools: Evidence from Boston’s Charters and Pilots.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 126(2): 699-748. doi: 10.1093/qje/qjr017.

Other Research Using this Data Set

Please find additional reports that use DESE research hosted here

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