By Sarah Plummer
Project Talent, a national longitudinal study that assessed the aptitudes and abilities, hopes and expectations of 440,000 high school students from nearly 1,400 schools across the nation, is now seeking Marsh Fork High School graduating classes of 1960-63 for a 50-year follow-up.
Project Talent, developed by the American Institutes for Research, was funded through the United States Office of Education and is the only national, long-term project to track participants from childhood to retirement age.
Speaking about the project in 1959, Lawrence W. Derthink, former U.S. Commissioner of Education, said, “Here, on an unprecedented scale, is an attempt to find out more about the students’ interests, their career plans and whether the courses they take are consistent with the life objectives they have set for themselves. And, above all, it is an attempt to determine why so much of the nation’s human potential is lost and what schools, counselors and parents can do to reduce this loss.”
Large studies that follow people from adolescence to retirement are both rare and extremely valuable. They allow researchers to make connections between early life experiences and later life outcomes. A new follow-up study can tell us how family and educational background impact the life course, up to and including the retirement process.
“The Project Talent generation is very important in the history of this country,” says Sabine Horner, Project Talent’s director of Outreach and Communications. “They came of age during an era of great upheaval and they transformed the United States as we knew it. Project Talent is an opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences in a meaningful way that can benefit future generations.”
The project has already amassed a large amount of data that has been beneficial to researchers. According to the project’s website, data collected in 1960 and several other follow-up interviews has been crucial to more than 450 government reports, academic articles and scholarly books.
Regarding education, for instance, the project has revealed that a student’s socioeconomic background and the educational level of his or her parents has more impact on students success than school resources or teacher quality.
The study has also revealed information on views of marriage and gender wage inequality. In the mid 1970s, women earned about 51 percent of what men with similar qualifications did.
Members of the classes of 1960-1963 from Marsh Fork High School are asked to contact Project Talent to register their interest and provide details of where they can be contacted to receive further information.
Participants can call the project on 1-866-770-6077 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Project Talent website and register online, www.projecttalent.org.
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