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Accountability in US Education: Applying Lessons from K-12 Experience to Higher Education

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  • David J. Deming
  • David Figlio

Abstract

A new push for accountability has become an increasingly important feature of education policy in the United States and throughout the world. Broadly speaking, accountability seeks to hold educational institutions responsible for student outcome using tools ranging from performance "report cards" to explicit rewards and sanctions. We survey the well-developed empirical literature on accountability in K-12 education and consider what lessons we can learn for the design and impact of college ratings. Our bottom line is that accountability works, but rarely as well as one would hope, and often not entirely in the ways that were intended. Research on K-12 accountability offers some hope but also a number of cautionary tales.

Suggested Citation

  • David J. Deming & David Figlio, 2016. "Accountability in US Education: Applying Lessons from K-12 Experience to Higher Education," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 33-56, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:30:y:2016:i:3:p:33-56
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.30.3.33
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. Rebecca Allen & Simon Burgess & Leigh McKenna, 2010. "How should we treat under-performing schools? A regression discontinuity analysis of school inspections in England," DoQSS Working Papers 10-20, Department of Quantitative Social Science - UCL Institute of Education, University College London.
    3. Cutler, David & Landrum, Mary Beth & Huckman, Robert, 2004. "The Role of Information in Medical Markets: An Analysis of Publicly Reported Outcomes in Cardiac Surgery," Scholarly Articles 2640582, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    4. David J. Deming & Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2012. "The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 139-164, Winter.
    5. David M. Cutler & Robert S. Huckman & Mary Beth Landrum, 2004. "The Role of Information in Medical Markets: An Analysis of Publicly Reported Outcomes in Cardiac Surgery," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 342-346, May.
    6. Brehm, Margaret & Imberman, Scott A. & Lovenheim, Michael F., 2017. "Achievement effects of individual performance incentives in a teacher merit pay tournament," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 133-150.
    7. Esther Duflo & Michael Greenstone & Nicholas Ryan, 2013. "Truth-telling by Third-party Auditors and the Response of Polluting Firms: Experimental Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(4), pages 1499-1545.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy

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