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Accountability, Incentives and Behavior: The Impact of High-Stakes Testing in the Chicago Public Schools

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  • Brian A. Jacob
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    Abstract

    The recent federal education bill, No Child Left Behind, requires states to test students in grades three to eight each year, and to judge school performance on the basis of these test scores. While intended to maximize student learning, there is little empirical evidence about the effectiveness of such policies. This study examines the impact of an accountability policy implemented in the Chicago Public Schools in 1996-97. Using a panel of student-level, administrative data, I find that math and reading achievement increased sharply following the introduction of the accountability policy, in comparison to both prior achievement trends in the district and to changes experienced by other large, urban districts in the mid-west. I demonstrate that these gains were driven largely by increases in test-specific skills and student effort, and did not lead to comparable gains on a state-administered, low-stakes exam. I also find that teachers responded strategically to the incentives along a variety of dimensions -- by increasing special education placements, preemptively retaining students and substituting away from low-stakes subjects like science and social studies.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8968.

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    Date of creation: May 2002
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    Publication status: published as Jacob, Brian A. "Accountability, Incentives And Behavior: The Impact Of High-Stakes Testing In The Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, 2005, v89(5-6,Jun), 761-796.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8968

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    1. 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.
    2. Hanushek, Eric A., 2006. "School Resources," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
    3. Ladd, Helen F., 1996. "The Dallas School Accountability and Incentive Program: An Evaluation of Its Impacts on Student Outcomes," Working Papers 96-18, Duke University, Department of Economics.
    4. Alan B. Krueger, 2000. "Economic Considerations and class size," Working Papers 975, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    5. Levitt, Steven D., 2002. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt2wj7v1j4, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    6. Julie Berry Cullen & Randall Reback, 2006. "Tinkering Toward Accolades: School Gaming Under a Performance Accountability System," NBER Working Papers 12286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2002. "The Impact of Teacher Training on Student Achievement: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from School Reform Efforts in Chicago," NBER Working Papers 8916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 1998. "Does Special Education Raise Academic Achievement for Students with Disabilities?," NBER Working Papers 6690, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
    11. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "The Cost of Accountability," NBER Working Papers 8855, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. 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.
    13. Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2002. "Remedial Education and Student Achievement: A Regression-Discontinuity Analysis," NBER Working Papers 8918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. repec:fth:prinin:447 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:
    1. Oriana Bandiera & Iwan Barankay & Imran Rasul, 2007. "Incentives for Managers and Inequality Among Workers: Evidence From a Firm-Level Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 729-773, 05.
    2. Jaag, Christian, 2006. "Teacher Incentives," MPRA Paper 340, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Christian Jaag, 2005. "Hidden Teacher Effort in Educational Production: Monitoring vs. Merit Pay," HEW 0503003, EconWPA.
    4. Daron Acemoglu & Michael Kremer & Atif Mian, 2003. "Incentives in Markets, Firms and Governments," NBER Working Papers 9802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Christiana Stoddard & Peter Kuhn, 2006. "Incentives and Effort in the Public Sector: Have U.S. Education Reforms Increased Teachers' Work Hours?," NBER Working Papers 11970, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Kaoru Nabeshima, 2003. "Raising the quality of secondary education in East Asia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3140, The World Bank.
    7. Paul Glewwe & Nauman Ilias & Michael Kremer, 2010. "Teacher Incentives," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 205-27, July.
    8. Deborah Wilson & Bronwyn Croxson & Adele Atkinson, 2004. "“What Gets Measured Gets Done”: Headteachers’ Responses to the English Secondary School," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 04/107, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.

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