“What students learn and how they perform in school positions them for future success. Course taking, course grades, and scores on tests are ways to measure students’ achievement and progress in school, and many kinds of measures are available. The extent to which a student is interested in school and participates in his or her learning, often referred to as ‘engagement,’ also can have strong effects on academic performance and school completion. Learning and succeeding in school requires active engagement.” 1
Students’ learning and development during their elementary, middle, and high school years is central to their eventual success in life and work. Strong academic performance, particularly in rigorous coursework, has been associated with a wide range of positive academic and workforce outcomes.2, 3 Importantly, learning and development take effort—which depends on students’ active engagement with peers, educators, their school community, and academic content. Recent research on engagement in learning consistently describes it as a multidimensional construct reflecting behavioral, emotional, and cognitive components.4, 5 Lack of engagement, such as through chronic absenteeism6 directly impedes learning.7 This domain, K–12 learning and engagement, is examined in relation to three indicators—engagement in schooling, performance in coursework, and performance on assessments—using data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the NAEP High School Transcript Study (HSTS), and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (ECLS-K:2011). These indicators are based on recommendations in the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) framework. The NASEM report notes that some of the recommended indicators have limitations. Currently, the Equity in Education Dashboard provides data based on published products. Because data in our published products do not always perfectly align with the recommended indicators in the NASEM report, we have indicated where our data differ from recommendations in the report. More findings will be added to the Equity in Education Dashboard over time. Group differences in the K-12 learning and engagement equity domain are examined across several educational equity dimensions: sex,8 race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status (SES), English learner (EL) status, and school poverty level, wherever the data allow.9
The Performance in Coursework indicator examines three constructs: success in classes (measured by course completion at different curriculum levels), credit accumulation, and grade point average (GPA).
The Performance on Tests indicator examines two constructs: student achievement and learning growth on reading, mathematics, and science assessments.
1 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Monitoring Educational Equity (pp. 7-8). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25389.
2 Heckman, J., Stixrud, J., Urzua, S. (2006). The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior. Journal of Labor Economics, 24: 411–482. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/504455.
3 Murnane, R. J., Willett, J. B., Duhaldeborde, Y., and Tyler, J. H. (2000). How Important Are the Cognitive Skills of Teenagers in Predicting Subsequent Earnings? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 19, 547–568. https://econpapers.repec.org/article/wlyjpamgt/v_3a19_3ay_3a2000_3ai_3a4_3ap_3a547-568.htm.
4 Appleton, J.J., Christenson, S.L., and Furlong, M.J. (2008). Student Engagement With School: Critical Conceptual and Methodological Issues of the Construct. Psychology in the Schools, 45(5): 369–386. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ790338.
5 Fredricks, J.A., Blumenfeld, P.C., and Paris, A. (2004). School Engagement: Potential of the Concept: State of the Evidence. Review of Educational Research, 74: 59–119. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543074001059.
6 For more information on chronic absenteeism and the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the NCES School Pulse Survey page: https://ies.ed.gov/schoolsurvey/.
7 Smerillo, N. E., Reynolds, A. J., Temple, J. A., and Ou, S. R. (2018). Chronic Absence, Eighth-Grade Achievement, and High School Attainment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Journal of school Psychology, 67, 163–178. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2017.11.001.
8 This domain presents a compilation of data from various sources crossing several periods of time. Within each indicator, the term “gender” or “sex” is used as presented by the original data source at the time.
9 Not all equity dimensions, such as race/ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, English learner status, and disability status, are examined for all constructs.
10 Reading assessments were in English, but accommodations were made for English learners and for students with disabilities in years other than 1992 and 1994. For more information, visit the NAEP website: https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/inclusion.aspx.