School & Transcript Surveys

School & Transcript Surveys

Created Variables

TRANS_PR_SCH_SECT. School sector of primary school (the primary school is the main school from which the transcript was primarily collected)

TRANS_PR_SCH_DIST_STUDS. Number of students in the school district (the primary school is the main school from which the transcript was primarily collected).

TRANS_PR_SCH_9_12_STUDS. Percentage of district's students in grades 9-12.

TRANS_PR_SCH_CALC. Whether the school offers calculus. Also available: Whether the school offers AP coursework ("_AP"), International Baccalaureate curriculum ("_IB"), or vocational education courses ("_ED").

TRANS_CRD_GPA_OVERALL and TRANS_CRD_GPA_YR_XXYY). Credit-weighted grade point averages for overall GPA and GPA by year.

TRANS_CUM_CRDS_EARNED_XXYY. A series of variables that sum the Carnegie credits earned by each student during his/her high school career as of the end of each academic year.

TRANS_PCT_NB_EARNED_XXYY. Another series represent the cumulative percentage of New Basics Core requirements completed by each student. The New Basics curriculum is a minimum curriculum recommended by the National Commission of Excellence in Education (NCEE) in 1983 to be completed by high school graduates. In addition, several "school program" variables categorize as academic or vocational a student's full course-taking behavior in high school. These variables follow recommendations set forth by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Students are categorized based on the number and types of credit within a transcript:

TRANS_ACAD_SPEC. Respondent categorized as an academic specialist.

TRANS_ACAD_CONC. Respondent categorized as an academic concentrator.

TRANS_VOC_CONC. Respondent categorized as vocational concentrator.

TRANS_XXXPIPE. Denotes subject-area pipeline variables categorizing course-taking in mathematics, foreign language, and science. For example, TRANS_BIOPIPE indicates a life sciences pipeline. A number of variables refer to the respondent's terms of enrollment.  For up to 18 terms, these items report the beginning and ending dates of the term, the way in which the school year is divided (such as a season, semester, entire year, or another system), the academic year of the term, the respondent's grade level that term, and the number of credits earned. The transcript file provides details about each course appearing on a student's high school transcript. Course-specific variables include the course code from the Revised Secondary School Taxonomy (SST-R), the grade earned in the course, and the credit value of the course.  Because schools use many different grading systems, the course grades were converted into a standard scale that can be compared across respondents.  In some cases, there was no grade assigned because the student the course was non-graded or audited or the student dropped the course.  In other cases, a standard grade could not be applied and the respondent was coded as "Unrecodable." A series of variables called "Recoding Status of Grade" indicates how the grade earned variable for each course was created.   The transcript file includes information about the respondents that is not associated with a specific term or course.  For example, these variables present test scores on a variety of achievement tests (ACT, PSAT, SAT I, SAT II, AP), information on absences and tardies, the student's school completion status, and dates of enrollment.  Variables also indicate whether the respondent participated in programs such as gifted, bilingual, or special education. For more details on school transcript variables, see Appendix 11 of the NLSY97 Codebook Supplement

PSTRAN_. A large number of post-secondary transcript survey created variables were released in 2015, documenting college transcript data.

To provide a more complete picture of respondents' educational experiences, data collected during the regular survey were supplemented with three special surveys:

  • School Surveys conducted in 1996-97 and 2000-01 provided data about high schools in the areas where NLSY97 respondents lived.

School Surveys

In the winter of 1996-97, all high schools in the 147 NLSY97 primary sampling units with a 12th grade, or nearly 7,400 schools, received the first School Survey questionnaire. This survey focused on institutional-level attributes such as school policies and management, as well as student-level experience data.  This self-administered instrument asked principals (or their proxies) to provide detailed data on the characteristics of the school, the staff, and the student body.  Additional information on the school's general practices, graduation policies, and school-to-work programs was also solicited.  Seventy-two percent of the schools responded to either the complete school survey or to a shorter critical items questionnaire.

A second school survey was conducted in the winter of 2000-01. All vocational high schools and high schools with a 12th grade in the 147 NLSY97 primary sampling units were included in the survey.  Additionally, if an NLSY97 respondent attended a school during round 2 that was not in one of the sampling areas, the school was included in the sample if it met the grade-level requirements. Over 9,600 total schools received School Survey questionnaires.  Seventy-one percent of the schools completed a School Survey questionnaire, either by mail or with an interviewer by telephone.

Due to "births" and "deaths" of schools between 1996 and 2000 and nonresponse in 1996, not all schools in the primary sampling unit areas are present in the data for both years.  The retention rate of 1996 schools into the 2000 survey was 74.2 percent (3,900 of 5,253).

The next paragraphs first describe the data collected in 1996-97 and then discuss the questions asked in 2000-01.  The content of the 2000 questionnaire overlapped significantly with the 1996 instrument.  However, many questions were reworded slightly, and the revised structure of the questionnaire gave less prominence to school-to-work subjects.  To reduce the time burden, questionnaire items from the 1996 instrument were modified to encourage respondents to provide approximate values rather than requiring them to consult administrative records for exact figures. 

1996 survey.  After identifying the type of school (e.g., comprehensive public, Catholic parish, other religious affiliation) and the grade level(s) served by the school, administrators were questioned about school characteristics.  Specifics included the length of the school day, the number of days of instruction per year, and the school's facilities (e.g., a library, a health clinic, a computer center, a drug and alcohol prevention program).  The survey also collected detailed information about teachers, such as the proportion of full-time to part-time staff; the proportion with a graduate degree; and the staff's racial, ethnic, and gender composition. 

School administrators were next asked about the average daily attendance rate, the total enrollment, and the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of the student body.  This section of the survey solicited information on the opportunities available to students, such as the type of courses, the course levels, and the programs offered (e.g., remedial math or English, gifted and talented, job placement, summer school).  In addition, detailed data were gathered on the 1996 graduating class (e.g., the percentage of students who took the SAT I/ACT, the average score on the SAT I/ACT).  Questions were also asked about the requirements for graduation, such as the total number of credits, the number of credits in a subject, or a standardized test score.

Another section of the school survey gathered information on the number of reported incidents of gang activity, vandalism, weapons possession, and student use of alcohol or drugs on school property. In addition, the administrators were asked to rate the amount of influence wielded by certain groups (e.g., state department of education, various school district officials, principal, teachers, parent association) on issues such as establishing the curriculum, hiring full-time teachers, and spending the school's budget.

Finally, the 1996 survey collected information on the general student requirements for enrollment in a number of school-based learning programs (e.g., career major, cooperative education).  Information about the provision of school-based learning programs complements questions in the Youth Questionnaire that ask the respondents about their enrollment in these programs. See School-Based Learning Programs for definitions of the various types of programs.

2000 survey. The second School Survey instrument began with questions about the school and its overall offerings:  grade levels, school type, tuition, program offerings, computer and other facilities, and sources of federal funding.  Faculty-related questions asked about the number of teachers with different education and experience levels, any staff development requirements, basic demographics, and the salary schedule.  Questions about the student body captured basic demographics, special education and Limited English Proficiency (LEP) enrollments, and remedial and accelerated program offerings, as well as percentages of students involved in such activities as athletics, truancy, and illegal activities. The instrument also asked about the academic requirements of the high school's curriculum and academic outcomes of its graduates.

The career preparation section began with items about how schools help students prepare for careers, how schools support teachers in professional development, and how enrollments have changed in various career preparation programs since the 1994-95 school year. A battery of questions asked about the existence of, enrollment in, duration of, and targeting of several different career preparation programs: apprenticeship, job shadowing, internships, career major/pathway, career academy, school sponsored enterprise, cooperative education, and tech-prep. Most of these programs are also included School-Based Learning Programs.

Much of this information cannot be released in the public use data set due to confidentiality concerns. To determine whether the School Survey information would be appropriate for one's research (in terms of content, sample size, etc.), click on the School Survey codebook pages, which show answer categories, frequency distributions, and other related information. To view the questionnaires themselves, go to the NLSY97 School Questionnaire 1996 Long Form, NLSY97 School Questionnaire 1996 Short Form, and NLSY97 School Questionnaire 2000. Use of the School Survey data is largely restricted to researchers meeting confidentiality requirements. Interested users can refer to the School Surveys page of the BLS website for more information concerning these procedures.

Transcript Survey (High School)

Transcript survey data came directly from high school transcripts secured from youths' high schools after respondents were no longer enrolled as high school students.  In 1999-2000, transcripts were obtained and processed for 1,417 youths who had graduated from high school or had reached age 18 and were no longer attending high school.  A second wave of transcripts was collected in 2004 for 4,815 youths.  School registrars provided a copy of the transcript that the high school maintained, a course catalog (if available), and indicated whether the student was designated for such programs as bilingual education, special education, or gifted/talented programming.

Transcript survey information could not be obtained for 2,752 youths. There are several reasons for this non-interview response.  Most respondents within this category either did not return a signed permission form or did not have a school identified for mailing purposes.  For others, student permission was secured, but the school record was not found or the school or district refused to release the information (see Table 1).

A data quality flag, called TRANS_PROBFLAG, was constructed to alert users to the existence of cases whose school transcript data was deemed by NLS staff to be incomplete or flawed in some way that would make the case less likely to provide useful information. The flag was a composite of five separate tests flagging different types of problems; a positive result for one or more of those tests resulted in the case being coded 1 (Yes). The five component tests were:

  • Is the case missing all Carnegie credit information?
  • Is the case lacking all usable course-grade information?
  • Is there a grade-level sequencing problem?
  • Does the record show an extremely limited number of courses?
  • Does the case contain a limited number of academic years?

Table 1. Transcript Survey Status by Respondent

Category Total % of Sample
Collected Transcript Records 6232 69.4%
  Wave 1 1417
Wave 2 4815
NIR: Wave 2 Fielded, Not Collected 886 9.9%
  Refusal at District Level 111
  Refusal at School Level 231
  Student Record Not Found 427
  Student Record Unavailable 117
NIR: Not Fielded for Transcript Survey 1866 20.8%
  Unsecured Permission 1572
  School Not Identified 231

Not Mailed,

Final Blocked

Total 8894 100%
Note: This table is based on the variable R98596.00, TRANS_STAT.

For more high school transcript survey information, see Appendix 11 of the NLSY97 Codebook Supplement

Post-Secondary Transcripts

College transcript data for NLSY97 respondents were collected in 2012-2013 and are now available on Investigator (see NLSY97 variable names beginning with the prefix PSTRAN). These data include a youth-level file with selected transcript-related data, as well as course and term-level files with variables pertaining to course enrollment Institutions are identified using the non-disclosive NEWSCH_PUBID values that are youth-specific but not meaningful across youths. For more detailed information, see Appendix 12: Post-Secondary Transcript Study

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: School surveys have been conducted for the NLSY79, Children of the NLSY79, the Young Women, and the Young Men.  Each of these surveys has recorded information on the school's total enrollment, number of books in the school library, qualifications of the staff, and ethnic/racial composition of the faculty and students. The NLSY79 and Children of the NLSY79 surveys also asked about the school's grading system and average daily attendance. 

Transcript surveys have been conducted for the NLSY79 and for the Children of the NLSY79. These surveys have included information on course subject matter, enrollment dates, and grades earned. For more precise details about the content of each survey, users should consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments:  School-level data were collected from schools using the School Survey instruments. Transcript variables were created from the respondents' school transcripts as provided by the individual schools.

Related User's Guide Sections Achievement Tests
School-Based Learning Programs
School Experience
Main Area of Interest Education: Achievement Tests