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The Impact of No Child Left Behind's Accountability Sanctions on School Performance: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from North Carolina


  • Thomas Ahn
  • Jacob Vigdor


Comparisons of schools that barely meet or miss criteria for adequate yearly progress (AYP) reveal that some sanctions built into the No Child Left Behind accountability regime exert positive impacts on students. Estimates indicate that the strongest positive effects associate with the ultimate sanction: leadership and management changes associated with school restructuring. We find suggestive incentive effects in schools first entering the NCLB sanction regime, but no significant effects of intermediate sanctions. Further analysis shows that gains in sanctioned schools are concentrated among low-performing students, with the exception of gains from restructuring which are pervasive. We find no evidence that schools achieve gains among low-performing students by depriving high-performing students of resources.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Ahn & Jacob Vigdor, 2014. "The Impact of No Child Left Behind's Accountability Sanctions on School Performance: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from North Carolina," NBER Working Papers 20511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20511
    Note: ED

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    Blog mentions

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    1. La importancia de las evaluaciones educativas como herramienta de transparencia y mejora (II)
      by Ismael Sanz Labrador in Politikon on 2016-09-14 13:00:29


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    Cited by:

    1. Alex Bryson & Francis Green, 2018. "Do Private Schools Manage Better?," National Institute Economic Review, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, vol. 243(1), pages 17-26, February.
    2. Evan Riehl & Meredith Welch, 2023. "Accountability, Test Prep Incentives, and the Design of Math and English Exams," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 42(1), pages 60-96, January.
    3. Seth Gershenson, 2016. "Performance Standards and Employee Effort: Evidence From Teacher Absences," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 35(3), pages 615-638, June.
    4. Sergio Longobardi & Patrizia Falzetti & Margherita Maria Pagliuca, 2018. "Quis custiodet ipsos custodes? How to detect and correct teacher cheating in Italian student data," Statistical Methods & Applications, Springer;Società Italiana di Statistica, vol. 27(3), pages 515-543, August.
    5. Bertoni, Marco & Brunello, Giorgio & De Benedetto, Marco Alberto & De Paola, Maria, 2019. "External Monitors and Score Manipulation in Italian Schools: Symptomatic Treatment or Cure?," IZA Discussion Papers 12591, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Brian P. Gill & Jennifer S. Lerner & Paul Meosky, "undated". "Re-Imagining Accountability in K-12 Education: A Behavioral Science Perspective," Mathematica Policy Research Reports d0c19d0709b641259fe391b2e, Mathematica Policy Research.
    7. Stokes, Lucy & Bryson, Alex & Wilkinson, David, 2019. "What Does Leadership Look like in Schools and Does It Matter for School Performance?," IZA Discussion Papers 12580, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Schiman, Jeffrey C., 2021. "The Information Content of Employee Awards," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 84(C).
    9. Holbein, John B. & Ladd, Helen F., 2017. "Accountability pressure: Regression discontinuity estimates of how No Child Left Behind influenced student behavior," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 55-67.
    10. Otávio Bartalotti & Quentin Brummet, 2015. "Estimation and Inference in Regression Discontinuity Designs with Clustered Sampling," CARRA Working Papers 2015-06, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    11. Claudio Lucifora & Marco Tonello, 2020. "Monitoring and Sanctioning Cheating at School: What Works? Evidence from a National Evaluation Program," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(4), pages 584-616.
    12. 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.
    13. Tom Ahn, 2015. "Matching strategies of teachers and schools in general equilibrium," IZA Journal of Labor Economics, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-31, December.

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    JEL classification:

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

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