Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Education

06/01/2002

Educational success is a key indicator of a child's well-being and clearly is related to current and future economic and physical well-being (Barnett, 1998; Card and Krueger, 1998). Educational success can be affected by educational histories, parental work, and targeted efforts to address parents' educational needs. Indeed, some welfare programs (i.e., Job Opportunities and Basic Skills [JOBS]) have more provisions directed at parental education than others (i.e., TANF). Because of the strong relationship between education of parents and children, when welfare programs help recipients to improve their educational skills (Boudett and Friedlander, 1997), they can be expected to have an influence on the learning of their children.

Certainly, improved educational performance of children is one hope of TANF. Because TANF does not pay for substantial educational programs for parents, the benefits for the education of children would have to be by more indirect means. This process may take several forms. For example, if parents' employment efforts result in relocation to communities that have schools with higher achievement for low-income children, this could result in educational achievement. Or, by witnessing their parents' success at the worksite, children could be inspired to have higher standards for their own achievement.

A limited set of pre-TANF research studies indicates there may not be a simple, sizable effect of welfare participation on children's educational attainment. Hill and O'Neill (1994) found that parental AFDC participation has no effect on children's scores on a standardized test of vocabulary, given income. Currie and Duncan (1995) confirmed that their results hold up even when sibling comparisons are used to account for unobserved maternal background characteristics. Yet a recent analysis of National Longitudinal Study of Youth data that included access to other mother and child services found a relationship between program participation and children's learning (Yoshikawa, 1999). Although the evidence base for research on educational outcomes and welfare reform primarily comes from surveys, there is good reason to suggest the importance of using administrative records to study this relationship. This will be particularly fruitful as the availability and meaningfulness of educational records continue to improve.

Measures of educational success include data elements that describe the child's achievement as well as their receipt of services. Many of these data are now in electronic databases in the school districts, but the automation of educational records tends to begin with the high schools and trickle down to the elementary schools. Thus, elementary school grades are not as likely to be automated as middle school or high school grades. Standardized statewide test scores are now quite routinely required of all students, as are periodic achievement test scores during certain sentinel years. The variety and repetition of tests is becoming quite extensive. (As an illustration, Box 10-2 includes the testing schedule for students in North Carolina schools.)

BOX 10-2
Educational Tests Routinely Used In North Carolina

  • End-of-grade tests (grades 3 - 8)
  • Writing assessment (grades 4, 7, 10)
  • Norm-referenced testing (grades 5, 8; sampled)
  • Open-ended assessment (grades 4, 8)
  • Computer Skills Proficiency (grade 8)
  • Reading and Mathematics competency testing (screen in grade 8; must pass for diploma by grade 12)
  • End-of-course tests in Algebra, Biology, English, and U.S. History

BOX 10-3
Minimum Educational Indicators

  • Academic Achievement (T scores from standardized tests)
  • Absences and dates of absences (Full day and part day)
  • Suspensions and dates of suspensions (With reasons)

Most, but not all, students take these tests. Exemptions may be given to students in special education, as determined by their Individual Education Program teams. Exemptions also may be given to students who are not following a standard course of study, such as those in alternative education or adolescent parenting programs.

Grade retention histories usually are available (or can be inferred from birthdates and grade levels). Educational reform is making grade retention data more valuable. Although widespread adherence to the principles of social promotion have dominated the nation's public schools for many years, legislation in many states (e.g., California, New York, North Carolina) is now discouraging social promotion. In the future, grade retention may indicate a child's true performance, not just a school's educational strategy regarding social promotion.

School services data also are obtainable, although the lack of standardization makes it difficult to assess change when students also change schools during the period under study. School attendance data also is likely to be automated, although comparisons across schools and, especially, unified school districts must be done with care because of different ways of administering the statewide definitions of attendance. Schools also have data about student's disciplinary actions--nearly always including suspensions or expulsions, but also including a variety of other disciplinary actions that are less severe. But caution is also needed in making comparisons about disciplinary actions in school. This is particularly true of suspensions, as some schools use them routinely and some schools use them only after considerable effort to mediate the problematic situation. Further, different rules typically apply to children receiving special education services and the proportion of children receiving special education services is, in turn, quite variable across schools. To assess the effects of welfare reform on the educational outcomes of children, even a minimum data set that included measures of academic achievement, absences, and suspensions would be useful (see Box 10-3).

View full report

Preview
Download

"01.pdf" (pdf, 472.92Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"02.pdf" (pdf, 395.41Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"03.pdf" (pdf, 379.04Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"04.pdf" (pdf, 381.73Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"05.pdf" (pdf, 393.7Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"06.pdf" (pdf, 415.3Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"07.pdf" (pdf, 375.49Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"08.pdf" (pdf, 475.21Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"09.pdf" (pdf, 425.17Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"10.pdf" (pdf, 424.33Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"11.pdf" (pdf, 392.39Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"12.pdf" (pdf, 386.39Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"13.pdf" (pdf, 449.86Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®

View full report

Preview
Download

"14.pdf" (pdf, 396.87Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®