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National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS 88)



3. KEY CONCEPTS

Some of the key terms related to NELS:88 are defined below.

Cognitive Test Battery. Cognitive tests measuring student achievement in mathematics, reading, science, and social studies (history/citizenship/geography) were administered in the base year, first follow-up, and second follow-up. The contents was as follows: (1) reading (21 items, 21 minutes); (2) mathematics (40 items, 30 minutes); (3) science (25 items, 20 minutes); and (4) social studies (30 items, 14 minutes-the base-year test included history and government items; the first and second follow-up tests included history, citizenship, and geography items).

Socioeconomic Status (SES). A composite variable constructed from five questions in the Parent Questionnaire: fatherís education level, motherís education level, fatherís occupation, motherís occupation, and family income. When all parent variables were missing, student data were used to compute the SES, substituting household items (e.g., dictionary, computer, more than 50 books, washing machine, calculator) for the family income variable. There are separate SES variables derived from parent data in the base year and the second follow-up. The database also included variables for SES quartiles.

Dropout. Used both to describe an event (leaving school before graduating) and a status (an individual who was not in school and not a graduate at a defined point in time). The NELS:88 ďcohort dropout rateĒ is based on a measurement of the enrollment status of 1988 8th-graders 2 and 4 years later (in spring 1990 and spring 1992) and of 1990 sophomores 2 years later (in spring 1992). For a given point in time, a respondent is considered to be a dropout if he or she had not graduated from high school or attained an equivalency certificate and had not attended high school for 20 consecutive days (not counting excused absences). Transferring to another school is not regarded as a dropout event, nor is delayed graduation if a student was continuously enrolled but took an additional year to complete high school. A person who dropped out of school may have returned later and graduated. This person would be considered a “dropout” at the time he or she initially left school and a “stopout” at the time he or she returned to school.