National Core Indicators: An Overview

January 19, 2016

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National Core Indicators is a collaboration between the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS), Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) and state developmental disability agencies of participating states.   The project began in 1997 as an effort to provide states with valid and reliable tools to use in support of their efforts to improve system performance and to better serve people with ID/DD and their families.   The current participation in NCI consists of over 45 states, as well as several sub-state regional entities.  All participating states and entities participate voluntarily. NCI requires a common set of data collection protocols to gather information about the performance of service delivery systems for people ID/DD. The data collection cycle for 2015-16 is well underway. For more info on the National Core Indicators Project, go to

The National Core Indicators data are used by state public developmental disabilities agencies to track their own performance by examining the outcomes experienced by individuals receiving supports. Indicators measured through the NCI surveys address key areas of concern, including employment, rights, service planning, community inclusion, choice, health, and safety.

The NCI survey portfolio is composed of five surveys. The Adult Consumer Survey (ACS) is given to a minimum of 400 respondents in each participating state. Respondents are adults (age 18 and older) who receive at least one service in addition to case management from the state developmental disability agency. The ACS consists of three sections - Section I, which includes subjective questions to which only the individual receiving services can respond, Section 2 in which proxy responses are also allowed, and the Background Information Section.  The Background Information Section collects information on the individual such as basic demographic information, residence type, health and preventive health care, employment, etc.      These data are generally derived from existing records and are usually collected by case managers.  

Each participating state is instructed to complete a minimum of 400 ACS surveys with a random sample of individuals over the age of 18 who are receiving at least one publicly funded service in addition to case management.  Sample selection is randomized so that every person in the state or service area that meets the criteria has an equal opportunity to be interviewed.  There are no a priori exclusion criteria and no pre-screening procedures.

The family surveys are mailed out to family members of individuals receiving services from the state developmental disabilities agency. The Adult Family Survey is sent to family members of adults receiving services and who live with the family member. The Family/Guardian Survey is sent to family member of adults receiving services who do not live with the family member. The Children/Family survey is sent to family members of children receiving services who live with the children using the services.

The NCI Staff Stability Survey is completed by provider agencies in participating states and can provide critical data on the stability of the Direct Support Workforce. The NCI Staff Stability Survey aims to collect valid and reliable state-level data on types of supports provided, turnover, wages, benefits, and recruitment/retention strategies for Direct Support Professionals.

For more information, please email Dorothy Hiersteiner at [email protected]

Dorothy Hiersteiner
Project Coordinator for National Core Indicators
2336 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
[email protected]