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Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality

  • Jonah E. Rockoff
  • Lesley J. Turner

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.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14564.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14564.

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Date of creation: Dec 2008
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Publication status: published as Jonah Rockoff & Lesley J. Turner, 2010. "Short-Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 119-47, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14564
Note: ED PE
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  1. repec:mpr:mprres:6364 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2004. "Impact of Voucher Design on Public School Performance: Evidence from Florida and Milwaukee Voucher Programs," Econometric Society 2004 North American Summer Meetings 221, Econometric Society.
  3. Rajashri Chakrabarti, 2007. "Vouchers, public school response, and the role of incentives: evidence from Florida," Staff Reports 306, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  4. Kenneth Y. Chay & Patrick J. McEwan & Miguel Urquiola, 2003. "The Central Role of Noise in Evaluating Interventions that Use Test Scores to Rank Schools," NBER Working Papers 10118, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Randall Reback & Julie Berry Cullen, 2006. "Tinkering toward accolades: School gaming under a performance accountability system," Working Papers 0601, Barnard College, Department of Economics.
  6. Sandra E. Black, 1997. "Do better schools matter? Parental valuation of elementary education," Research Paper 9729, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  7. Hanley Chiang, 2009. "How Accountability Pressure on Failing Schools Affects Student Achievement," Mathematica Policy Research Reports c58a3b537e324447b94a2bd41, Mathematica Policy Research.
  8. 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.
  9. Li Feng & David N. Figlio & Tim Sass, 2010. "School accountability and teacher mobility," NBER Working Papers 16070, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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