to learning programs. Almost 25,000 students across the United States participated in the base-year study. Student questionnaires covered school experiences, activities, attitudes, educational, and occupational plans and aspirations, selected background characteristics and language proficiency. Students also completed a series of curriculum-sensitive cognitive tests to measure educational achievement and cognitive growth between eighth and twelfth grades in four subject areas: reading, mathematics, science, and social studies. School principals completed a questionnaire about the school. The administrator questionnaire gathered descriptive information about the school’s teaching staff, the school climate, characteristics of the student body, and school policies and offerings. Two teachers (in two of the four subject areas) of each student were asked to answer questions about the student, themselves (characteristics and classroom teaching practices), course content, and their school. One parent of each student was surveyed regarding family characteristics and student activities. Parent questionnaire included items on parental aspirations for children, family willingness to commit resources to children’s education, the home educational support system, and other family characteristics relevant to achievement.
The first follow-up was conducted in 1990 and did not include a parent questionnaire. The study frame included 19,264 students and dropouts, 1,291 principals, and 10,000 teachers. There were two more survey components: base-year ineligible study and high school effectiveness study. Respondents took a tenth grade level cognitive test in the four subject areas. The student questionnaire had items on school and home environments, participation in classes and extracurricular activities, current jobs, their goals and aspirations, and opinions about themselves. The dropout questionnaire collected information on reasons for leaving school, school experiences, absenteeism, family formation, plans for the future, employment, attitudes and self-concept, and home environment. The base-year ineligible study was conducted to ascertain 1990 school enrollment status and 1990 NELS:88 eligibility status of students who were excluded from base-year survey because of a language barrier or a physical or mental disability which precluded them from completing the questionnaire and cognitive test. After the study, 341 students became eligible and completed a supplemental questionnaire. The high school effectiveness study (HSES) was designed to allow augmentation of the within-school student sample to produce a subsample of urban and suburban schools. It allowed researchers to better study school effects on education.
The second follow-up took place in 1992 when most of the respondents are in the second semester of their senior year. Dropouts were also resurveyed. For selected subsamples, data was collected from parents, teachers, school administrators, and transcripts. Respondents took a twelfth grade level cognitive test in four subject areas. Student questionnaire items addressed academic achievement, perceptions and feeling about school and its curriculum, family structure and environment, social relations and aspirations, attitudes and values, and family decision-making structure during transition from school to college or work.