Study Description

The Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement (AHAA) study provides an opportunity to examine the effects of education on adolescent behavior, academic achievement, and cognitive and psychosocial development in the 1990s. The AHAA study expands the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) – one of the decade’s most important studies of adolescents - to include detailed measures of academic progress and high school curriculum.

Add Health is a nationally-representative, school-based study that explores the causes of health-related behaviors of adolescents in grades 7 through 12 and their outcomes in young adulthood. Add Health seeks to examine how social contexts (families, friends, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and communities) influence adolescents' health and risk behaviors. While Add Health is a rich resource of data on adolescent development in multiple contexts, Add Health has limited information on the academic trajectories of youth. Thus, the AHAA study contributes to the Add Health by providing the high school transcripts of Add Health Wave III sample members.

During the Wave III data collection, Add Health sample members were given a Transcript Release Form (TRF) which authorized Add Health to identify schools last attended by study participants and request official transcripts from the schools. At this time, Add Health sample members were generally no longer in high school. The youngest Add Health grade-level cohort, those in 7th grade at Wave I, were the high school class of 2000, while the oldest cohort, those in 12th grade at Wave I, generally had been out of school for over six years.

Beginning in Fall 2001, high school transcripts and other data were collected from all Add Health high schools except two special education schools that did not maintain students’ academic transcripts, and from approximately 1,400 additional schools where Add Health respondents last attended high school. Approximately 91% of Wave III respondents signed a valid TRF and from August 2001 through June 2002, AHAA collected high school transcripts for most respondents (N= approximately 12,000).

Additional information was collected from the schools last attended by the AHAA Wave III sample. Used primarily for coding the transcripts, school administrators were asked to complete a school survey about the grading practices, school policies, and special programs. Schools were also asked to list the textbooks used in each math and science course. Finally, secondary data was linked to each school last attended by Add Health respondents, even when transcripts were not collected.

The transcripts were coded using procedures designed for the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The transcript data provide detailed information on students’ grades, courses taken, the overarching academic structure of each student’s school, and information on the last school each student attended. The AHAA data provides indicators of (1) educational achievement, (2) course taking patterns, (3) curricular exposure, and (4) educational contexts within and between schools, all of which are linked to the Add Health survey data.

Design and Implementation of the Adolescent Health and Academic Achievement Study, 2007