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High School and Beyond (HS&B) Longitudinal Study

1. Overview

HS&B collects data from:
  • Students and dropouts
  • School administrators
  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • High school transcripts
  • Postsecondary transcripts
  • Postsecondary financial aid records

The High School and Beyond (HS&B) Longitudinal Study was the second study conducted as part of NCES’ National Longitudinal Studies Program. This program was established to study the educational, vocational, and personal development of young people, beginning with their elementary or high school years and following them over time as they take on adult roles and responsibilities. The HS&B included two high school cohorts–a senior cohort (the graduating class of 1980) and a sophomore cohort (the sophomore class of 1980). Students, school administrators, teachers, parents, and administrative records provided data for the study. HS&B results can be compared with the results of three other longitudinal studies–the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972 (NLS:72), the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88), and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). (See chapters NLS, NELS, and ELS respectively, for descriptions of these studies.)

The HS&B covered more than 30,000 high school seniors and 28,000 high school sophomores. It consisted primarily of a base-year survey in 1980 and four follow-up surveys in 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1992. Record studies were also conducted to obtain key supplemental data on students. As part of the first follow–up, high school transcripts were requested for the sophomore cohort, providing information on the sophomores’ course taking behavior through their 4 years of high school. Postsecondary transcripts were collected in 1984 for the senior cohort and in 1987 and 1993 for the sophomore cohort. In addition, student financial aid data were obtained from administrative records in 1984 for the senior cohort and in 1986 for the sophomore cohort. The HS&B project ended in 1993 after the completion of the fourth follow-up survey and a related transcripts study of the sophomore cohort.


To (1) study longitudinally the given cohorts’ educational, vocational, and personal development, beginning with their high school years, and the personal, familial, social, institutional, and cultural factors that may affect that development; and (2) compare the results with data from the NLS:72, NELS:88, and ELS:2002 to facilitate cross-cohort studies of American youth’s schooling and socialization.


The HS&B compiled data from a sample of students, parents, teachers, and school administrators in a base-year and four follow–up surveys. It also collected high school and postsecondary transcripts and administrative financial aid records. The various components are described below.

Base–year Survey. The base-year survey was conducted in spring 1980 and comprised the following:

Student Questionnaire. Students were asked to (1) fill out a booklet, which included several items on the use of non–English languages as well as confidential identifying information; (2) complete a questionnaire that focused on their individual and family background, high school experiences, work experiences, future educational plans, future occupational goals, and plans for and ability to finance postsecondary education; and (3) take timed cognitive tests that measured verbal and quantitative abilities. The sophomore test battery included achievement measures in science, writing, and civics, while seniors were asked to respond to tests measuring abstract and nonverbal abilities.

School Questionnaire. Completed by an official in the participating school, this questionnaire collected information about enrollment, staff, educational programs, facilities and services, dropout rates, and special programs for handicapped and disadvantaged students.

Teacher Comment Checklist. At each grade level, teachers had the opportunity to answer questions about the traits and behaviors of sampled students who had been in their classes. The typical student in the sample was rated on average by four different teachers.

Parent Questionnaire. A sample of parents provided information about family attitudes, family income, employment, occupation, salary, financial planning, and how these affect postsecondary education and goals. The results included responses from the parents of about 3,600 sophomores and 3,600 seniors.


First Follow–up Survey. The first follow–up survey was conducted in spring 1982. As in the base–year survey, information was collected from students, school administrators, and parents. For the 1980 senior cohort, high school and postsecondary experiences were the main focus of the survey; seniors were asked about their school and employment experiences, family status, and attitudes and plans. For the 1980 sophomore cohort, the survey gathered information on school, family, work experiences, educational and occupational aspirations, personal values, and test scores of sample participants. A high school transcript collection was also part of the first follow-up for sophomore cohort members. (See section on record studies for more detail.)

Sophomores were classified by high school status as of 1982 (i.e., dropout, same school, transfer, or early graduate). Dropouts completed a Not Currently in High School Questionnaire, which included some questions from the regular Student Questionnaire but focused on their reasons for dropping out and its impact on their educational and career development. In addition to the regular Student Questionnaire, a Transfer Supplement was completed by members of the sophomore cohort who had transferred out of their base-year sample high school to another high school. This supplement gathered information on the reasons for transferring and for selecting a particular school, the length of the interruption in schooling and why it occurred, and particulars about the school itself (type, location, entrance requirements, size of student body, grades). Sophomore cohort members who graduated from high school ahead of schedule completed an Early Graduate Supplement in addition to the regular questionnaire. The Early Graduate Supplement documented the reasons for and circumstances of early graduation, the adjustments required to finish early, and respondents’ activities compared with those of other out–of–school survey members (i.e., dropouts, 1980 seniors).

Second Follow–up Survey. This survey was conducted in spring 1984. For both the sophomore and senior cohorts, the survey collected data on the students’ work experience, postsecondary schooling, earnings, periods of unemployment, and so forth. For seniors, postsecondary transcripts and financial aid records were also collected. (See section on record studies for more detail.)

Third Follow–up Survey. This survey was administered in spring 1986, using the same questionnaire for both the sophomore and senior cohorts. To maintain comparability with prior waves, many questions from earlier follow–up surveys were repeated. Respondents were asked to update background information and to provide information about their work experience, unemployment history, education and other training, family information (including marriage patterns), income, and other experiences and opinions. Financial aid records and postsecondary transcripts were collected for sophomores. (See section on record studies for more detail.)

Fourth Follow–up Survey. This survey was administered in spring 1992 only to the sophomore cohort. The survey sought to obtain valuable information on issues of access to, and choice of, undergraduate and graduate education institutions; persistence in obtaining educational goals; progress through the curriculum; rates of degree attainment and other assessments of educational outcomes; and rates of return to the individual and society. Additionally, a collection of postsecondary transcripts for sophomore cohort members (i.e. members who had received their baccalaureate degrees and then went on to pursue graduate, doctoral, and first–professional degrees) took place in 1993.


Record Studies. The following record studies were conducted during the course of the HS&B project.

High School Transcript Study. In fall 1982, as part of the first follow-up, nearly 16,000 high school transcripts were collected for sophomore cohort students who were seniors in 1982. This data collection allowed the study of the course taking behavior of the members of the sophomore cohort throughout their 4 years of high school. Data included a six-digit course number for each course taken; course credit, expressed in Carnegie units (a standard of measurement that represents one credit for the completion of a 1-year course); course grade; year that course was taken; grade point average; days absent; and standardized test scores. (For more information, see HST Studies chapter, which covers the High School Transcript Studies.)

Postsecondary Education Transcript Study. This study gathered data on students’ academic histories since leaving high school. As part of the second follow-up in 1984, postsecondary transcripts were collected for the senior cohort. Transcripts were requested from all postsecondary institutions reported by senior cohort members in the first and second follow-up surveys. Transcript data included dates of attendance; fields of study; degrees earned; and the titles, grades, and credits of every course attempted at each institution.

In 1987 and again in 1993, postsecondary transcripts were collected for the sophomore cohort. The latter collection allowed information to be obtained on sophomore cohort members who had received their baccalaureate degrees and then went on to pursue graduate, doctoral, and first-professional degrees.

Student Financial Aid Records. In 1984, HS&B collected institutional financial aid records and federal records on the Guaranteed Student Loan Program and the Pell Grant Program for seniors who had indicated postsecondary attendance. Federal financial aid records were obtained for the sophomore cohort in 1986.


The base–year survey was conducted in 1980, with four follow–ups in 1982, 1984, 1986, and 1992 (the 1992 follow-up included only the sophomore cohort). High school transcripts were collected for the sophomore cohort in 1982. Postsecondary transcripts were collected for the senior cohort in 1984 and for the sophomore cohort in 1987 and 1993. Student financial aid records were collected for the senior cohort in 1984 and for the sophomore cohort in 1986.

Data Availability

Information on HS&B restricted–use data files is available at