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Do Accountability and Voucher Threats Improve Low-Performing Schools?

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  • David N. Figlio
  • Cecilia Rouse

Abstract

In this paper we study the effects of the threat of school vouchers and school stigma in Florida on the performance of "low-performing" schools using student-level data from a subset of districts. Estimates of the change in school-level high-stakes test scores from the first year of the reform are consistent with the early results used by the state of Florida to claim large-scale improvements associated with the threat of voucher assignment. However, we also find that much of this estimated effect may be due to other factors. While we estimate a small relative improvement in reading scores on the high-stakes test for voucher-threatened/stigmatized schools, we estimate a much smaller relative improvement on a lower-stakes, nationally norm-referenced, test. Further, the relative gains in reading scores are explained largely by changing student characteristics. We find more evidence for a positive differential effect on math test scores on both the low- and highstakes tests, however, the results from the lower-stakes test appear primarily limited to students in the high-stakes grade. Finally, we find some evidence that the relative improvements following the introduction of the A Plan by low-performing schools were more due to the stigma of receiving the low grade rather than the threat of vouchers.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11597
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    1. Alan B. Krueger, 1999. "Experimental Estimates of Education Production Functions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 497-532.
    2. Figlio, David N. & Rouse, Cecilia Elena, 2006. "Do accountability and voucher threats improve low-performing schools?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1-2), pages 239-255, January.
    3. Ashenfelter, Orley C, 1978. "Estimating the Effect of Training Programs on Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(1), pages 47-57, February.
    4. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2002. "Improving educational quality: how best to evaluate our schools," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 47(Jun), pages 193-247.
    5. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 843-877.
    6. Figlio, David N., 2006. "Testing, crime and punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 837-851, May.
    7. Paul Peterson & William Howell & Patrick J. Wolf & David Campbell, 2003. "School Vouchers. Results from Randomized Experiments," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of School Choice, pages 107-144 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. Frey, Donald E., 1992. "Can privatizing education really improve achievement? An essay review," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 427-438, December.
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    11. Krueger, Alan B. & Zhu, Pei, 2002. "Another Look at the New York City School Voucher Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 663, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. 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.
    13. Figlio, David N. & Winicki, Joshua, 2005. "Food for thought: the effects of school accountability plans on school nutrition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 381-394, February.
    14. Cecilia Elena Rouse, 1998. "Private School Vouchers and Student Achievement: An Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 553-602.
    15. David N. Figlio & Maurice E. Lucas, 2004. "What's in a Grade? School Report Cards and the Housing Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 591-604, June.
    16. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Griliches, Zvi, 1977. "Estimating the Returns to Schooling: Some Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(1), pages 1-22, January.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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