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Basic Facts

A nationally representative, longitudinal study of 9th graders who will be followed through their secondary and postsecondary years, with an emphasis on understanding students' trajectories from the beginning of high school into postsecondary education, the workforce, and beyond. What students decide to pursue when, why, and how are crucial questions for HSLS:09, especially, but not solely, in regards to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, majors, and careers.

  • In this study, STEM is considered broadly to include not only doctors, engineers, and scientists but also medical technicians, IT consultants, and pharmacists, for example.

The HSLS:09 focuses is on how students plan and make decisions about postsecondary options.

  • How do parents, teachers, counselors, and students construct choice sets for students, and how are these related to students' characteristics, attitudes, and behavior?
  • How do students select among secondary school courses, postsecondary institutions, and possible careers?
  • How do parents and students plan financing for postsecondary experiences? What sources inform these plans?
  • What factors influence students' decisions about taking STEM courses and following through with STEM college majors? Why are some students underrepresented in STEM courses and college majors?
  • The new schedule and focus will provide data on how studentsí plans vary over the course of high school and how decisions in 9th grade impact students' high school trajectories. When students are followed up in the spring of 11th grade and later, their planning and decision-making in 9th grade may be linked to subsequent behavior.

As with past NCES studies, HSLS:09 will survey students, parents, teachers, and school administrators and will include a student assessment. However, there are several aspects to HSLS:09 that are new to the NCES longitudinal study program:

  • HSLS:09 started with a 9th grade cohort in the fall of 2009. Past NCES-sponsored studies began with 8th, 10th, or 12th graders, but 9th grade is a crucial transition year and a critical grade in determining high school trajectories.
  • HSLS:09 includes an algebra assessment in the fall of 9th grade (2009) and again in the spring of most students' 11th grade year (2012). Surveys will be administered at the same time and also in the students' expected graduation year, 2013, to record students' postsecondary options and plans. Another data collection will occur in 2015 to learn about students' postsecondary experiences, and later still to learn about participants' choices, decisions, attainment, and experiences in adulthood.
  • School counselors are included in the survey component and asked about typical course availability and selection in addition to the planning and decision-making processes for students' secondary and postsecondary experiences.

Constructs highlighted for inclusion into the HSLS:09 survey instruments include:

  • Student: Interests and goals in regards to school generally and to STEM specifically; identity formation; academic behavior (e.g., attendance, study habits); attitudes and beliefs (e.g., self-efficacy); social and cultural experiences; exposure to STEM through school or home activities; negative school and STEM experiences
  • Parents: Demographics; sources and quality of information re: college planning and financing; educational expectations; discussions about courses, postsecondary options, careers; support and resources for academic pursuits at home; school involvement
  • Teachers: Demographics; professional preparation and experience; perceptions of parental involvement; perceptions of educational leadership; math and science richness to school; work-related attitudes (e.g., efficacy)
  • Administrators: Outreach and transition programs for 8th graders; course availability and selection processes; planning for transition to postsecondary
  • Counselors: Caseload; duties; how students enter pathways for postsecondary education and/or the workforce; course placement and advising; supports for struggling and excelling students