January 6, 2006

Back in the archives

I'm back at the Georgia Archives today and tomorrow (started yesterday), with luck finishing the photographing of the reports I've chosen from the late 1950s and early 1960s. (This series starts in the late 1930s.) Usually, historians don't use the term data collection, because sifting through primary documents is a much more active cognitive process when you're in an archive. But when you're standing there taking snapshots and turning pages, what else do you call it? If I have time tomorrow, I'll also go through the state reports and see how early there is decent age-grade data.

This is the historical pilot for the tools I'm developing on graduation and attrition. Here, the historical question is where and how secondary-school experience grew in the South at mid-century. Did it grow primarily in urban areas or in both urban and rural areas? So I've selected about 20 (of Georgia's 159) counties to follow in a time series, divided into groups: urban counties, Georgia northeastern rural counties, coastal counties south of Savannah, and rural counties in the Black Belt along the Alabama border.

There are a few related measures I'm using. One is a growth-adjusted estimate of the proportion of time schoolchildren spend in secondary school. A second is an estimate of grade progression rates for elementary ages. A third is a profile of attrition. The last is the trickiest, because it depends so highly on accurate migration data. I'm using an average of a residual flow for ages 7-10 as the assumed average for the student population, but that doesn't capture age-to-age differences, and that's likely to make things tricky for ages 16-17. For many of the rural historical populations, the attrition begins well before 16. Because I have the other measures now, I'm less worried about this one, but it's such a nasty thing to get right, and it affects everything about graduation estimates as well as attrition.

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Posted in Research on January 6, 2006 8:04 AM |