Aiming to get a clearer picture of how students’ home and community resources affect their academic achievement, America’s best-known K-12 education barometer, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is building a comprehensive new way to gauge socioeconomic status.
The new measure, being developed by the National Assessment Governing Board and the National Center for Education Statistics, is intended to look beyond a traditional measure of family income to a child’s family, community, and school supports for learning.
“This issue has just been on the burner for so, so long,” said Maria V. Ferguson, the executive director of the Washington-based Center on Education Policy. “When NAGB starts talking about it, that does elevate it to a place where it could be part of a bigger policy debate,” she said. “I wonder if the folks at NAGB are hoping this could be an opening salvo into a bigger conversation about how [different SES measures] might affect other programs.”
The governing board commissioned eight researchers in education, economics, statistics, human development, and sociology that have been working on the new indicators since 2010. The panel released its initial proposal at a NAGB meeting here Nov. 29.
“We rapidly learned that socioeconomic status contains multiple dimensions and categories that don’t neatly collapse back to ‘low’ versus ‘high,’ ” said Charles D. Cowan, the chief executive officer of the San Antonio-based research group Analytic Focus and a member of the governing board’s expert panel. “Over the last 10 to 15 years, there’s been an explosion in the data available” on student characteristics, Mr. Cowan said. “Perhaps now is the time to think about alternative measures of SES simply because now we are able to think about it.” <Read more.>