Currie and Duncan (1995) confirmed that their results hold up even when sibling comparisons are used to account for unobserved maternal background characteristics. Yet a recent analysis of National Longitudinal Study of Youth data that included access to other mother and child services found a relationship between program participation and children’s learning (Yoshikawa, 1999). Although the evidence base for research on educational outcomes and welfare reform primarily comes from surveys, there is good reason to suggest the importance of using administrative records to study this relationship. This will be particularly fruitful as the availability and meaningfulness of educational records continue to improve.
Measures of educational success include data elements that describe the child’s achievement as well as their receipt of services. Many of these data are now in electronic databases in the school districts, but the automation of educational records tends to begin with the high schools and trickle down to the elementary schools. Thus, elementary school grades are not as likely to be automated as middle school or high school grades. Standardized statewide test scores are now quite routinely required of all students, as are periodic achievement test scores during certain sentinel years. The variety and repetition of tests is becoming quite extensive. (As an illustration, Box 10–2 includes the testing schedule for students in North Carolina schools.)
Most, but not all, students take these tests. Exemptions may be given to students in special education, as determined by their Individual Education Program teams. Exemptions also may be given to students who are not following a standard course of study, such as those in alternative education or adolescent parenting programs.
Grade retention histories usually are available (or can be inferred from birthdates and grade levels). Educational reform is making grade retention data more valuable. Although widespread adherence to the principles of social promotion have dominated the nation’s public schools for many years, legislation in
End-of-grade tests (grades 3–8)
Writing assessment (grades 4, 7, 10)
Norm-referenced testing (grades 5, 8; sampled)
Open-ended assessment (grades 4, 8)
Computer Skills Proficiency (grade 8)
Reading and Mathematics competency testing (screen in grade 8; must pass for diploma by grade 12)
End-of-course tests in Algebra, Biology, English, and U.S. History