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Food for Thought: The Effects of School Accountability Plans on School Nutrition

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  • David N. Figlio
  • Joshua Winicki

Abstract

School accountability systems based on high-stakes testing of students have become ubiquitous in the United States, and are now federal policy as well. This paper identifies a previously-unresearched method through which schools faced with potential sanctions may 'game the system' in order to have higher aggregate student test scores than might otherwise be warranted. There exists a well-established link between nutrition and short-term cognitive functioning. Hence, we investigate whether school districts exploit this relationship by strategically altering school nutrition menus during testing periods in an apparent attempt to artificially increase student test scores. Using detailed daily school nutrition data from a random sample of Virginia school districts, we find that school districts having schools faced with potential sanctions under Virginia's Standards of Learning (SOL) accountability system apparently respond by substantially increasing calories in their menus on testing days, while those without such immediate pressure do not change their menus. Suggestive evidence indicates that the school districts who do this the most experience the largest increases in pass rates.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9319.

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Date of creation: Nov 2002
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Publication status: published as Figlio, David N. and Joshua Winicki. "Food For Thought: The Effects Of School Accountability Plans On School Nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, 2005, v89(2-3,Feb), 381-394.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9319

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  1. 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.
  2. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Joshua Winicki & Kyle Jemison, 2003. "Food Insecurity and Hunger in the Kindergarten Classroom: Its Effect on Learning and Growth," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(2), pages 145-157, 04.
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