Table 2.  Types of questions detailed student-level, longitudinal data can answer
about Individual
  • What early childhood education program did a kindergartner attend, if any? At what age did the child enter the program? How did he fare in elementary school?
  • How has a student progressed in math over the course of the year? How did she perform in this subject in earlier grades? Was there a time when her performance took a turn for the worse?
  • In what specific areas of the reading curriculum does a student need extra help?
  • Did a student drop out or transfer to another school? If she dropped out, did she ever participate in a dropout intervention program?
  • Which students in a school are at risk of dropping out in the future? What intervention program will be most effective in preventing this outcome?
  • What courses did a student take in high school and how did they prepare him for college? Did he require remediation? Did he earn a degree and, if so, how many years did it take?
about groups of
  • How are the Hispanic students in a school district doing academically this year compared with the White students? Tracking the same students back in time and to other institutions, how did they do the prior year? How do the schools they attend compare in terms of various characteristics such as funding and teacher quality?
  • How did students who attended a certain middle school fare in high school?
  • How many African-American students who were proficient on the 8th grade mathematics exam were also proficient on the 10th grade mathematics exam? Of those students, how many took algebra I in the 8th grade?
  • How do students identified as “limited-English proficient” perform in comparison with students whose native language is English?
about teachers
  • How do various teacher qualifications or training (e.g., education level, degree, certification, undergraduate institution, professional development, and teacher test performance) correlate with student performance? Do these effects vary among certain types of students?
  • Which teachers are most successful in improving the skills of struggling students?
  • Which teachers’ students achieve the greatest improvements in a particular subject? What are these teachers doing differently?
  • How are teachers of varying qualifications distributed among schools and students?
  • What are the teacher retention rates among various institutions?
about policies, programs, strategies
  • What is the impact of certain teacher policies on teacher recruitment and retention?
  • In addition, what impact do these policies have on student outcomes?*
  • What impact does a policy have on student achievement? Do these effects vary among students with different characteristics?
  • Was a program successful in boosting achievement? Did certain types of students benefit from it more than others? What value did it add to student performance?
  • Did a teaching strategy succeed? How did students taught with this strategy compare with similar students who were taught using another approach?
  • What effect does using certain materials or technologies have on student outcomes? Do some teachers have greater success with certain tools?
  • How do varying funding levels or resource allocation strategies relate to student success or program effectiveness?
about indicators
  • What are the early indicators of high dropout risk?
  • Is a certain local assessment a good predictor of success in a subsequent grade?
  • Is a specific state assessment a good predictor of success in postsecondary education?
  • What levels of middle school achievement are associated with success in high school?
  • What high school performance indicators are the best predictors of student success in the workplace? (DQC 2007c)
about schools
  • Controlling for different student populations and other characteristics, which schools produce the most academic growth in their students?
  • How does the success of students enrolled in a specific school for a certain period of time compare with that of students enrolled for the same amount of time in the highest-performing comparable schools?
  • How does a middle school perform with students who entered the school well prepared in mathematics? How does the same school perform with students who were poorly prepared? (Dougherty, 2002)
  • What percentage of a school’s graduates requires remediation in college?
  • How is a school’s increase in proficiency rates related to the attrition of its low-performing students? (Anderson, Fowler, and Klein 2005)
about districts
  • What are the characteristics shared by the highest performing districts? How does the quality of these districts’ teaching staff compare with that of other districts in the state?
  • What is a district’s National Governors Association (NGA) graduation rate?
  • How do districts compare in the number of students who enroll in postsecondary institutions? In the percentage that requires remediation? Who earns a degree?
  • Which districts have the highest teacher turnover rates?
  • How many students does a district actually serve?
about states
  • What is a state’s NGA graduation rate?
  • What percentage of a state’s high school graduates required remediation in college?
  • Where do graduates of a teacher preparation program get hired to teach?
  • How long do they remain in their first jobs? Do graduates of certain programs have greater success with students than others?

* National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (adapted from stated research focus).