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

  • Brian A. Jacob
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    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.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12817.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12817.

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    Date of creation: Jan 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12817
    Note: CH ED LS
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
    2. Figlio, David N., 2006. "Testing, crime and punishment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(4-5), pages 837-851, May.
    3. Brian A. Jacob & Steven D. Levitt, 2003. "Rotten Apples: An Investigation of the Prevalence and Predictors of Teacher Cheating," NBER Working Papers 9413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. David N. Figlio & Lawrence S. Getzler, 2002. "Accountability , Ability and Disability: Gaming the System," NBER Working Papers 9307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "A Reason for Quantity Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 431-435, May.
    8. 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.
    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. 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.
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