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Student Assessments, Non-test-takers, and School Accountability


  • Robert Lemke
  • Claus Hoerandner
  • Robert McMahon


Much attention has focused recently on using student test scores to evaluate public schools. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 requires states to test students and evaluate each school's progress toward having all students meet or exceed state standards. Under the law, however, schools only need to test 95% of their students. When some students do not take the test, variability arises in a school's evaluation as the score of each student who did not take the test remains unknown. Using a statewide assessment administered to 11th graders in Illinois, we investigate this source of variation. In our data, 8% of students do not take the test. By applying a bounding technique to the unknown scores of the non-test-takers, we show that classifying schools as failing or passing against some fixed threshold frequently can be misleading. We also provide evidence that some schools may be strategically selecting some students to not take the test and, by so doing, increasing the school's test scores.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Lemke & Claus Hoerandner & Robert McMahon, 2006. "Student Assessments, Non-test-takers, and School Accountability," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 235-250.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:edecon:v:14:y:2006:i:2:p:235-250
    DOI: 10.1080/09645290600622970

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John V. Pepper, 1999. "What Do Welfare-to-Work Demonstrations Reveal to Welfare Reformers?," JCPR Working Papers 105, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    2. Manski, C.F., 1992. "Identification Problems in the Social Sciences," Working papers 9217, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    3. Caroline M. Hoxby, 2000. "The Effects of Class Size on Student Achievement: New Evidence from Population Variation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1239-1285.
    4. John V. Pepper, 2003. "Using Experiments to Evaluate Performance Standards: What Do Welfare-to-Work Demonstrations Reveal to Welfare Reformers?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(4).
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