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Test-Based Accountability and Student Achievement: An Investigation of Differential Performance on NAEP and State Assessments

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  • Brian A. Jacob

Abstract

This paper explores the phenomenon referred to as test score inflation, which occurs when achievement gains on "high-stakes" exams outpace improvements on "low-stakes" tests. The first part of the paper documents the extent to which student performance trends on state assessments differ from those on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I find evidence of considerable test score inflation in several different states, including those with quite different state testing systems. The second part of the paper is a case study of Texas that uses detailed item-level data from the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) and the NAEP to explore why performance trends differed across these exams during the 1990s. I find that the differential improvement on the TAAS cannot be explained by several important differences across the exams (e.g., the NAEP includes open-response items, many NAEP multiple-choice items require/permit the use of calculators, rulers, protractors or other manipulative). I find that skill and format differences across exams explain the disproportionate improvement in the TAAS for fourth graders, although these differences cannot explain the time trends for eighth graders.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian A. Jacob, 2007. "Test-Based Accountability and Student Achievement: An Investigation of Differential Performance on NAEP and State Assessments," NBER Working Papers 12817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12817
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:hrv:faseco:33078975 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. Figlio, David N., 2006. "Testing, crime and punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 837-851, May.
    4. Richards, Craig E. & Sheu, Tian Ming, 1992. "The South Carolina school incentive reward program: A policy analysis," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 71-86, March.
    5. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
    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. 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.
    8. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "A Reason for Quantity Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 431-435, May.
    9. Lillard, Dean R. & DeCicca, Philip P., 2001. "Higher standards, more dropouts? Evidence within and across time," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(5), pages 459-473, October.
    10. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Daniel M. Koretz, 2002. "Limitations in the Use of Achievement Tests as Measures of Educators' Productivity," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 752-777.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Fitzpatrick, Maria D. & Grissmer, David & Hastedt, Sarah, 2011. "What a difference a day makes: Estimating daily learning gains during kindergarten and first grade using a natural experiment," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 269-279, April.
    2. Richardson, J.T., 2015. "Accountability incentives and academic achievement: Distributional impacts of accountability when standards are set low," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 1-16.
    3. Nicholas J. Sanders, 2012. "What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Weaker: Prenatal Pollution Exposure and Educational Outcomes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 47(3), pages 826-850.
    4. Chiang, Hanley, 2009. "How accountability pressure on failing schools affects student achievement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(9-10), pages 1045-1057, October.
    5. Mizala, Alejandra & Urquiola, Miguel, 2013. "School markets: The impact of information approximating schools' effectiveness," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 313-335.
    6. Alejandra Mizala & Miguel Urquiola, 2007. "Parental choice and school markets: The impact of information approximating school effectiveness," Documentos de Trabajo 239, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    7. Zhang, Hongliang, 2016. "Identification of treatment effects under imperfect matching with an application to Chinese elite schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 56-82.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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