Developing and Evaluating Methods for Using American Community Survey Data to Support the School Meals Programs

Interim Report

Panel on Estimating Children Eligible for School Nutrition Programs Using the American Community Survey

Allen L. Schirm and Nancy J. Kirkendall, Editors

Committee on National Statistics

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

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Developing and Evaluating Methods for Using American Community Survey Data to Support the School Meals Programs Interim Report Panel on Estimating Children Eligible for School Nutrition Programs Using the American Community Survey Allen L. Schirm and Nancy J. Kirkendall, Editors Committee on National Statistics Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Gov- erning Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engi- neering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by contract number AG-3198-C-09-0006 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Support for the work of the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation (award number SES-0453930). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project. International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-15452-9 International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-15452-9 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2010). Developing and Evaluating Methods for Using American Community Survey Data to Support the School Meals Pro - grams: Interim Report. Panel on Estimating Children Eligible for School Nutrition Programs Using the American Community Survey, Allen L. Schirm and Nancy J. Kirkendall, Editors. Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal govern - ment on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its mem - bers, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advis - ing the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the fed - eral government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineer- ing communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org

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PANEL ON ESTIMATINg CHILDREN ELIgIbLE FOR SCHOOL NuTRITION PROgRAMS uSINg THE AMERICAN COMMuNITy SuRvEy ALLEN L. SCHIRM (Chair), Mathematica Policy Research, Washington, DC DAVID M. BETSON, Department of Economics, University of Notre Dame MARIANNE P. BITLER, Department of Economics, University of California, Irvine F. JAY BREIDT, Department of Statistics, Colorado State University ROBERT E. FAY, Westat, Rockville, Maryland ALBERTA C. FROST, Consultant, Alexandria, Virginia MICHAEL F. GOODCHILD, Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara PARTHA LAHIRI, Department of Statistics, University of Maryland PENNY E. McCONNELL, Fairfax County Public Schools, Springfield, Virginia SARAH NUSSER, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University JOHN PERKINS, Perkins Consulting Group, Austin, Texas JAMES H. WYCKOFF, Currie School of Education, University of Virginia NANCY J. KIRKENDALL, Study Director AGNES E. GASKIN, Administrative Assistant v

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COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS 2009-2010 WILLIAM F. EDDY (Chair), Department of Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University KATHARINE G. ABRAHAM, Department of Economics, University of Maryland, and Joint Program in Survey Methodology ALICA CARRIQUIRY, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University WILLIAM DuMOUCHEL, Phase Forward, Inc., Waltham, Massachusetts JOHN HALTIWANGER, Department of Economics, University of Maryland V. JOSEPH HOTZ, Department of Economics, Duke University KAREN KAFADAR, Department of Statistics, Indiana University SALLIE KELLER, George R. Brown School of Engineering, Rice University LISA LYNCH, Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University DOUGLAS MASSEY, Department of Sociology, Princeton University SALLY C. MORTON, Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh JOSEPH NEWHOUSE, Division of Health Policy Research and Education, Harvard University SAMUEL H. PRESTON, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania HAL STERN, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine ROGER TOURANGEAU, Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland, and Survey Research Center, University of Michigan ALAN ZASLAVSKY, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School CONSTANCE F. CITRO, Director vi

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Acknowledgments T he Panel on Estimating Children Eligible for School Nutrition Pro- grams Using the American Community Survey wishes to thank the many people and organizations that contributed to the preparation of this interim report. Without their help, the panel could not have com- pleted this planning document within the short time frame provided in the first phase of the project. As chair, I want to thank my fellow panel members for their commitment to the work under a demanding time schedule. They have consistently provided insightful and constructive input under tight deadlines as we developed this report and our plans for the remainder of the study. The panel thanks John Endahl, Jay Hirschman, and Cindy Long of the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) for their patient explanation of the many rules, regulations, data sources, and evaluation studies pertaining to the school meals programs. We are also grateful for the expert advice of staff of the U.S. Census Bureau in understanding the data collected in the American Community Survey and the estimates developed in the Small-Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program. In the preparation of this report, the panel convened two open meet- ings. At the first one, held on September 1, 2009, informative and helpful presentations on the charge to the panel and on the regulations and opera- tion of the school meals programs were provided by John Endahl, Jay Hirschman, Cindy Long, Melissa Rothstein, and William Wagoner of FNS and Christopher Logan of Abt Associates. Informative and helpful pre - sentations on the American Community Survey, the Small Area Income vii

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viii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS and Poverty Estimates Program, and geographical issues were provided by Douglas Geverdt, David Johnson, Donald Lurey, Alfredo Navarro, and Michael Ratcliffe of the U.S. Census Bureau. Stuart Hamilton and Salvatore Saporito of the College of William and Mary gave a helpful presentation about their new School Attendance Boundary Information System. The second open meeting, held on October 29, 2009, featured presenta- tions on topics concerning measurement of income and program partici- pation in the school meals programs as well as issues related to costs and errors. Special thanks go to Kay Brown, U.S. Government Accountability Office; John Czajka, Mathematica Policy Research; Ed Harper and Gary Vessels, FNS; Constance Newman, Economic Research Service; and Michael Ponza, Mathematica Policy Research. The panel has been assisted by a very able staff. Our work on this report and our initial study preparations could not have been completed without the many contributions of Nancy Kirkendall, the study director. She provided technical and substantive insights, conducted and oversaw helpful data tabulations, drafted and revised key sections of the report, and kept the panel and project on track. We would like to acknowledge Linda Meyers and Lynn Parker of the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine for their help in identifying individuals knowledge - able about the school meals programs. We are also grateful for the consis- tently wise counsel provided by Connie Citro, director of the Committee on National Statistics, and for the assistance of Agnes Gaskin, administra- tive assistant to the committee, in handling the logistical arrangements of the panel and our meetings. Finally, we would like to thank Mary Grider of Mathematica Policy Research for her help with tabulations using the Common Core of Data. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and respon - siveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Robert Cromley, Department of Geography, University of Connecticut; David N. Figlio, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University; Malay Ghosh, Department of Statistics, University of Florida; Kathy F. Kuser, Consultant, Lithia, FL; Sharon K. Long, Health Policy Center, The Urban Institute, Washington, DC; Joseph Salvo, Population Division, New

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ix ACKNOWLEDGMENTS York City Department of City Planning; Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; and Grant I. Thrall, Department of Geography, University of Florida. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many construc- tive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the con- clusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by V. Joseph Hotz, Department of Economics, Duke University. Appointed by the NRC’s Report Review Committee, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accor- dance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring panel and the institution. Finally, we recognize the many federal agencies that support the Committee on National Statistics directly and through a grant from the National Science Foundation. Without their support and their com- mitment to improving the national statistical system, the committee work that is the basis of this report would not have been possible. Allen L. Schirm, Chair Panel on Estimating Children Eligible for School Nutrition Programs Using the American Community Survey

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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 5 Overview of School Meals Programs, 6 Panel Charge and Approach, 9 Organization of the Report, 10 2 THE SCHOOL MEALS PROGRAMS 12 Conceptual Framework, 12 Eligibility, 15 Certification, 16 Verification, 19 Participation, 20 Counting, Claiming, and Reimbursement, 23 Special Provisions for Operating the School Meals Programs, 24 3 THE AMERICAN COMMUNITY SURVEY AND OTHER DATA SOURCES 32 American Community Survey, 34 Administrative Data for the School Meals Programs, 37 Common Core of Data, 38 Survey of Income and Program Participation, 39 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates Program, 40 Geographic Data, 45 xi

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xii CONTENTS 4 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND DESIGN OF SCHOOL DISTRICT CASE STUDIES 47 Framework for Classifying School Districts, 47 Case Studies, 53 Attachment A: Example of Letter to State Official, 58 Attachment B: Letter of Support from the School Nutrition Association, 61 Attachment C: Protocol for Case Study Districts, 62 5 TECHNICAL APPROACH TO ESTIMATION 65 Reimbursements Under Provision 4, 66 ACS Direct Estimates of Eligible Students, 68 Potential Adjustments to ACS Estimates, 70 Precision of Estimates, 73 Estimates for Schools and Groups of Schools, 77 Estimating Participation, 80 Assessing Costs and Benefits, 86 6 EVALUATION OF ESTIMATES 87 Policy and Decision-Making Context, 88 Errors in Current Methods to Determine Reimbursements, 90 Potential Errors in Proposed Data Sources and Estimation Methods, 95 Proposed Evaluation Plan, 98 7 OPERATIONAL FEASIBILITY 100 Estimates for School Districts, 101 Estimates for Schools or Groups of Schools, 102 BIBLIOGRAPHY 105 APPENDIXES A Glossary 111 B Meeting Agendas 117 C Biographical Sketches of Panel Members and Staff 120