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Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality

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  • Jonah E. Rockoff
  • Lesley J. Turner

Abstract

In November of 2007, the New York City Department of Education assigned elementary and middle schools a letter grade (A to F) under a new accountability system. Grades were based on numeric scores derived from student achievement and other school environmental factors such as attendance, and were linked to a system of rewards and consequences. We use the discontinuities in the assignment of grades to estimate the impact of accountability in the short run. Specifically, we examine student achievement in English Language Arts and mathematics (measured in January and March of 2008, respectively) using school level aggregate data. Although schools had only a few months to respond to the release of accountability grades, we find that receipt of a low grade significantly increased student achievement in both subjects, with larger effects in math. We find no evidence that these grades were related to the percentage of students tested, implying that accountability can cause real changes in school quality that increase student achievement over a short time horizon. We also find that parental evaluations of educational quality improved for schools receiving low accountability grades. However, changes in survey response rates hold open the possibility of selection bias in these complementary results.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonah E. Rockoff & Lesley J. Turner, 2008. "Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality," NBER Working Papers 14564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14564
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sandra E. Black, 1999. "Do Better Schools Matter? Parental Valuation of Elementary Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 577-599.
    2. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2013. "Vouchers, Public School Response, And The Role Of Incentives: Evidence From Florida," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(1), pages 500-526, January.
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    4. Chakrabarti Rajashri, 2013. "Impact of Voucher Design on Public School Performance: Evidence from Florida and Milwaukee Voucher Programs," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 14(1), pages 349-394, July.
    5. 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.
    6. Hanley Chiang, "undated". "How Accountability Pressure on Failing Schools Affects Student Achievement," Mathematica Policy Research Reports c58a3b537e324447b94a2bd41, Mathematica Policy Research.
    7. Feng, Li & Figlio, David & Sass, Tim, 2018. "School accountability and teacher mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 1-17.
    8. repec:mpr:mprres:6364 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Koning & Karen Wiel, 2012. "School Responsiveness to Quality Rankings: An Empirical Analysis of Secondary Education in the Netherlands," De Economist, Springer, vol. 160(4), pages 339-355, December.
    2. Camargo, Braz & Camelo, Rafael & Firpo, Sergio & Ponczek, Vladimir, 2014. "Information, Market Incentives, and Student Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 7941, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Sarena F. Goodman & Lesley J. Turner, 2013. "The Design of Teacher Incentive Pay and Educational Outcomes: Evidence from the New York City Bonus Program," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 409-420.
    4. Feng, Li & Figlio, David & Sass, Tim, 2018. "School accountability and teacher mobility," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 1-17.
    5. Woo, Seokjin & Lee, Soohyung & Kim, Kyunghee, 2015. "Carrot and stick?: Impact of a low-stakes school accountability program on student achievement," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 195-199.
    6. Tahir Andrabi & Jishnu Das & Asim Khwaja, 2014. "Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets," CID Working Papers 287, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    7. De Witte, Kristof & Geys, Benny & Solondz, Catharina, 2014. "Public expenditures, educational outcomes and grade inflation: Theory and evidence from a policy intervention in the Netherlands," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 152-166.
    8. Cortes, Kalena E. & Moussa, Wael S. & Weinstein, Jeffrey M., 2013. "Educating bright students in urban schools," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 286-297.
    9. Rockoff, Jonah E. & Lockwood, Benjamin B., 2010. "Stuck in the middle: Impacts of grade configuration in public schools," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1051-1061, December.
    10. Andrew Leigh, 2013. "Revenge of the Nerds: The Economics of Education Reform," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 46(2), pages 227-233, June.
    11. Friesen, Jane & Harris, Benjamin Cerf & Woodcock, Simon, 2013. "Open Enrolment and Student Achievement," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2013-46, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 22 Mar 2014.
    12. Hemelt, Steven W., 2011. "Performance effects of failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP): Evidence from a regression discontinuity framework," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 702-723, August.
    13. Craig, Steven G. & Imberman, Scott A. & Perdue, Adam, 2013. "Does it pay to get an A? School resource allocations in response to accountability ratings," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 30-42.
    14. Chakrabarti, Rajashri, 2014. "Incentives and responses under No Child Left Behind: Credible threats and the role of competition," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 124-146.
    15. Craig, Steven G. & Imberman, Scott A. & Perdue, Adam, 2015. "Do administrators respond to their accountability ratings? The response of school budgets to accountability grades," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 55-68.
    16. Emiliana Vegas & Alejandro Ganimian, 2013. "Theory and Evidence on Teacher Policies in Developed and Developing Countries," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 4597, Inter-American Development Bank.
    17. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2017. "Adequate (or Adipose?) Yearly Progress: Assessing the Effect of “No Child Left Behind” on Children's Obesity," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(1), pages 54-76, Winter.
    18. de Hoyos, Rafael & Garcia-Moreno, Vicente A. & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2017. "The impact of an accountability intervention with diagnostic feedback: Evidence from Mexico," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 123-140.
    19. Atila Abdulkadiroglu & Joshua D. Angrist & Yusuke Narita & Parag A. Pathak, 2017. "Impact Evaluation in Matching Markets with General Tie-Breaking," NBER Working Papers 24172, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Nunes, Luis C. & Reis, Ana Balcão & Seabra, Carmo, 2015. "The publication of school rankings: A step toward increased accountability?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 15-23.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H52 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Education
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • L38 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Public Policy

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