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Teaching to the rating: School accountability and the distribution of student achievement

  • Reback, Randall

This paper examines whether minimum competency school accountability systems, such as those created under No Child Left Behind, influence the distribution of student achievement. Because school ratings in these systems only incorporate students' test scores via pass rates, this type of system increases incentives for schools to improve the performance of students who are on the margin of passing but does not increase short-run incentives for schools to improve other students' performance. Using student-level, panel data from Texas during the 1990's, I explicitly calculate schools' short-run incentives to improve various students' expected performance, and I find that schools do respond to these incentives. Students perform better than expected when their test score is particularly important for their schools' accountability rating. Also, low achieving students perform better than expected in math when many of their classmates' math scores are important for the schools' rating, while relatively high achieving students do not perform better. Distributional effects appear to be related to broad changes in resources or instruction, as well as narrowly tailored attempts to improve the performance of specific students.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5-6 (June)
Pages: 1394-1415

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:5-6:p:1394-1415
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Gerald Marschke & Pascal Courty, 2002. "An Empirical Investigation of Gaming Responses to Explicit Performance Incentives," Discussion Papers 02-06, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  2. James J. Heckman & Carolyn Heinrich & Jeffrey Smith, 2002. "The Performance of Performance Standards," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 778-811.
  3. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin, 2001. "Disruption versus Tiebout Improvement: The Costs and Benefits of Switching Schools," NBER Working Papers 8479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David N. Figlio & Cecilia Rouse, 2005. "Do Accountability and Voucher Threats Improve Low-Performing Schools?," NBER Working Papers 11597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2005. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions That Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1237-1258, September.
  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. Eric A. Hanushek & John F. Kain & Steven G. Rivkin & Gregory F. Branch, 2005. "Charter School Quality and Parental Decision Making With School Choice," NBER Working Papers 11252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2004. "Does School Accountability Lead to Improved Student Performance?," NBER Working Papers 10591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  10. Jacob, Brian A., 2005. "Accountability, incentives and behavior: the impact of high-stakes testing in the Chicago Public Schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 761-796, June.
  11. Victor Lavy, 2002. "Evaluating the Effect of Teachers' Group Performance Incentives on Pupil Achievement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(6), pages 1286-1317, December.
  12. Donald Boyd & Hamilton Lankford & Susanna Loeb & James Wyckoff, 2008. "The Impact of Assessment and Accountability on Teacher Recruitment and Retention," Public Finance Review, , vol. 36(1), pages 88-111, January.
  13. David N. Figlio, 2005. "Testing, Crime and Punishment," NBER Working Papers 11194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Thomas J. Kane & Douglas O. Staiger, 2002. "The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(4), pages 91-114, Fall.
  15. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation Of The Prevalence And Predictors Of Teacher Cheating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(3), pages 843-877, August.
  16. Courty, Pascal & Marschke, Gerald, 1997. "Measuring Government Performance: Lessons from a Federal Job-Training Program," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(2), pages 383-88, May.
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