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Test-Based Accountability and Student Achievement: An Investigation of Differential Performance on NAEP and State Assessments

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  • Brian A. Jacob
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    Abstract

    This paper explores the phenomenon referred to as test score inflation, which occurs when achievement gains on "high-stakes" exams outpace improvements on "low-stakes" tests. The first part of the paper documents the extent to which student performance trends on state assessments differ from those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I find evidence of considerable test score inflation in several different states, including those with quite different state testing systems. The second part of the paper is a case study of Texas that uses detailed item-level data from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) and the NAEP to explore why performance trends differed across these exams during the 1990s. I find that the differential improvement on the TAAS cannot be explained by several important differences across the exams (e.g., the NAEP includes open-response items, many NAEP multiple-choice items require/permit the use of calculators, rulers, protractors or other manipulative). I find that skill and format differences across exams explain the disproportionate improvement in the TAAS for fourth graders, although these differences cannot explain the time trends for eighth graders.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12817.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12817.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12817

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    1. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
    2. Richards, Craig E. & Sheu, Tian Ming, 1992. "The South Carolina school incentive reward program: A policy analysis," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 71-86, March.
    3. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
    4. Figlio, David N. & Winicki, Joshua, 2005. "Food for thought: the effects of school accountability plans on school nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 381-394, February.
    5. 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.
    6. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Testing, Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 11194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Daniel M. Koretz, 2002. "Limitations in the Use of Achievement Tests as Measures of Educators' Productivity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 752-777.
    9. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "A Reason for Quantity Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 431-435, May.
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    Cited by:
    1. Alejandra Mizala & Miguel Urquiola, 2007. "School Markets: The Impact of Information Approximating Schools' Effectiveness," NBER Working Papers 13676, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Fitzpatrick, Maria D. & Grissmer, David & Hastedt, Sarah, 2011. "What a difference a day makes: Estimating daily learning gains during kindergarten and first grade using a natural experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 269-279, April.
    3. 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.
    4. Alejandra Mizala & Miguel Urquiola, 2007. "Parental choice and school markets: The impact of information approximating school effectiveness," Documentos de Trabajo 239, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.

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