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The Cost of Accountability

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  • Caroline M. Hoxby

Abstract

Discussions of school accountability focus on two issues: poor test administration and the expense of accountability. Up to this point, researchers have focused on test quality and simply assumed that the programs are expensive enough to crowd out other policies, such as class size reduction or higher teacher salaries. Researchers have also assumed that it is so expensive to have a good accountability program (which includes good comprehensive tests, well-defined standards, an effective report card system, and safeguards that prevent cheating and teaching the test) that only poor accountability systems will be affordable. In this paper, I present the facts about how much accountability costs. The facts are, fortunately, highly knowable because costs show up both as expenditures on government budgets and as revenues on companies' (mainly test makers') accounts. Moreover, it turns out that worrying about measurement error in the cost data is pointless. The costs of accountability programs are so tiny that even the most generous accounting could not make them appear large, relative to the cost of other education programs. The 'most expensive' programs in the United States generally cost less than one quarter of 1 percent of per pupil spending, and most of these are only as costly as they are because a state is in the 'expensive' and temporary phase of developing its own comprehensive tests.

Suggested Citation

  • Caroline M. Hoxby, 2002. "The Cost of Accountability," NBER Working Papers 8855, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8855
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    Cited by:

    1. Ludger Wößmann, 2006. "Bildungspolitische Lehren aus den internationalen Schülertests: Wettbewerb, Autonomie und externe Leistungsüberprüfung," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 7(3), pages 417-444, August.
    2. Edward P. Lazear, 2004. "Speeding, Tax Fraud, and Teaching to the Test," NBER Working Papers 10932, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alvarez, Jesus & Moreno, Vicente Garcia & Patrinos, Harry Anthony, 2007. "Institutional effects as determinants of learning outcomes : exploring state variations in Mexico," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4286, The World Bank.
    4. Brian A. Jacob, 2002. "Accountability, Incentives and Behavior: The Impact of High-Stakes Testing in the Chicago Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 8968, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General

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