How Accountability Pressure on Failing Schools Affects Student Achievement

Publisher: Journal of Public Economics, vol. 93, issue 9-10
Oct 30, 2009
Hanley Chiang
Although the threat of sanctions on low-performing schools can raise student test scores in the short run, the extent to which these test score improvements are due to schools' manipulation of the accountability system has remained uncertain. This article evaluates the relative importance of educational reforms and gaming behavior in generating test score gains by threatened schools. The author uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate medium-run effects on student test scores from having attended a threatened elementary school. Threat-induced math improvements from elementary school largely persist at least through the first one to two years of middle school, while evidence for persistence of reading improvements is less consistent. Sanction threats tend to raise school spending on instructional technology, curricular development, and teacher training.