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Status versus growth: The distributional effects of school accountability policies

  • Helen F. Ladd

    (Edgar Thompson Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Duke University)

  • Douglas L. Lauen

    (Assistant Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

Although the federal No Child Left Behind program judges the effectiveness of schools based on their students' achievement status, many policy analysts argue that schools should be measured, instead, by their students' achievement growth. Using a 10-year student-level panel data set from North Carolina, we examine how school-specific pressure associated with status and growth approaches to school accountability affect student achievement at different points in the prior-year achievement distribution. Achievement gains for students below the proficiency cut point emerge in schools failing either type of accountability standard, with the effects clearer for math than for reading. In contrast to prior research highlighting the possibility of educational triage, we find little or no evidence that failing schools in North Carolina ignore the students far below proficiency under either approach. Importantly, we find that the status, but not the growth, approach reduces the reading achievement of higher performing students. Our analysis suggests that the distributional effects of accountability pressure depend not only on the type of pressure for which schools are held accountable (status or growth), but also the tested subject. © 2010 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20504
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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Volume (Year): 29 (2010)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 426-450

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:29:y:2010:i:3:p:426-450
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  1. Simon Burgess & Carol Propper & Helen Slater & Deborah Wilson, 2005. "Who wins and who loses from school accountability? The distribution of educational gain in English secondary schools," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 05/128, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  2. Ladd, Helen F. & Walsh, Randall P., 2002. "Implementing value-added measures of school effectiveness: getting the incentives right," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-17, February.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Figlio, David & Loeb, Susanna, 2011. "School Accountability," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  6. Petra E. Todd & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2003. "On The Specification and Estimation of The Production Function for Cognitive Achievement," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(485), pages F3-F33, February.
  7. Springer, Matthew G., 2008. "The influence of an NCLB accountability plan on the distribution of student test score gains," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 556-563, October.
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