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Incentives and responses under No Child Left Behind: credible threats and the role of competition

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  • Rajashri Chakrabarti

Abstract

The No Child Left Behind law mandated the institution of adequate yearly progress (AYP) objectives, on which schools are assigned a pass or fail. Fail status is associated with negative publicity and often sanctions. In this paper, I study the incentives and responses of schools that failed AYP once. Using data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and regression discontinuity designs, I find evidence in these schools of improvements in high-stakes reading and spillover effects to low-stakes language arts. The patterns are consistent with a focus on marginal students around the high-stakes cutoff, but this improvement did not come at the expense of the ends. Meanwhile, there is little evidence of improvement in high-stakes math or in low-stakes science and social studies. Performance in low-stakes grades suffered, as did performance in weaker subgroups despite their inclusion in AYP computations. While there is no evidence of robust effects in either test participation or graduation, attendance improved in threatened schools where it mattered for AYP. Finally, there is strong evidence in favor of response to incentives: Schools that failed AYP only in reading and/or math subsequently did substantially better in those subject areas. Credibility of threat mattered. AYP-failed schools that faced more competition responded more strongly and also more broadly, robust evidence in favor of improvements in all AYP objectives.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 525.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:525

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Keywords: Education ; Public schools ; Reward (Psychology);

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  1. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2007. "Can increasing private school participation and monetary loss in a voucher program affect public school performance? Evidence from Milwaukee," Staff Reports 300, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. David N. Figlio & Joshua Winicki, 2002. "Food for Thought: The Effects of School Accountability Plans on School Nutrition," NBER Working Papers 9319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Marigee Bacolod & John DiNardo & Mireille Jacobson, 2009. "Beyond Incentives: Do Schools use Accountability Rewards Productively?," NBER Working Papers 14775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2008. "Impact of voucher design on public school performance: evidence from Florida and Milwaukee voucher programs," Staff Reports 315, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  5. Alan I. Barreca & Jason M. Lindo & Glen R. Waddell, 2011. "Heaping-Induced Bias in Regression-Discontinuity Designs," NBER Working Papers 17408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 2003. "School Choice and School Productivity. Could School Choice Be a Tide that Lifts All Boats?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 287-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. John M. Krieg, 2008. "Are Students Left Behind? The Distributional Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 3(2), pages 250-281, April.
  8. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2013. "Vouchers, Public School Response, And The Role Of Incentives: Evidence From Florida," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 500-526, 01.
  9. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
  10. Randall Reback, 2006. "Teaching to the Rating: School Accountability and the Distribution of Student Achievement," Working Papers 0602, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
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  12. Derek Neal & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2010. "Left Behind by Design: Proficiency Counts and Test-Based Accountability," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 263-283, May.
  13. Springer, Matthew G., 2008. "The influence of an NCLB accountability plan on the distribution of student test score gains," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 556-563, October.
  14. Randall Reback & Jonah Rockoff & Heather L. Schwartz, 2011. "Under Pressure: Job Security, Resource Allocation, and Productivity in Schools Under NCLB," NBER Working Papers 16745, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," NBER Working Papers 9413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Chiang, Hanley, 2009. "How accountability pressure on failing schools affects student achievement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1045-1057, October.
  17. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2013. "Accountability with Voucher Threats, Responses, and the Test-Taking Population: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from Florida," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 8(2), pages 121-167, April.
  18. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Testing, Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 11194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Martin R. West & Paul E. Peterson, 2006. "The Efficacy of Choice Threats Within School Accountability Systems: Results from Legislatively Induced Experiments," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C46-C62, 03.
  20. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-09, January.
  21. Figlio, David N. & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2006. "Do accountability and voucher threats improve low-performing schools?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 239-255, January.
  22. Thomas Dee & Brian Jacob, 2009. "The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Student Achievement," NBER Working Papers 15531, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
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