Method: Data were from the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS), Maryland’s statewide repository for individual-level education and workforce data that are longitudinally linked across three state agencies. The cohort of Maryland public school students who were in 6th grade (N = 63,427) in 2007-08 was used for this study (50% white; 36% Black; 89% non-Hispanic; 64% eligible for free/reduced price meals). Poverty was measured using student eligibility for FARMS in 6th-12th grade, and school level poverty was measured by aggregating individual student poverty to the school level. High school dropout, assessment scores, and college enrollment were measured using administrative records.
Results: Forty-six percent (N = 29,189) of students were never eligible for FARMS throughout middle and high school, and 18% (N = 11,313) of students were eligible for FARMS every year. School level poverty was categorized into 10 percentage point buckets, and dummy codes were created for each bucket. After controlling for the role of student-level poverty, race, ethnicity, and school-level racial composition, results indicate that the steepest increase in dropout and decline in postsecondary enrollment occurred around deciles 2-4, and peak at about decile 6. For high school assessment scores, significant declining thresholds were found across the spectrum of school poverty. Additionally, students who were usually in poverty experienced the worst outcomes, experiencing even worse outcomes than students who were always in poverty.
Conclusions: Commissioners used these results to offer a preliminary recommendation of an exponentiated per pupil dollar amount for schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty (>40%). A discussion will focus on the challenges associated with using administrative data for prevention science.