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School choice and educational accountability
This paper analyzes households' response to the introduction of intra-district school choice and examines the impact of this choice on student test scores in Pinellas County Schools, one of the largest school districts in the United States. Households react strongly to the incentives created by such programs, leading to significant changes in the frequency of exercising alternative public schooling options, as well as changes in the composition of the "opt out" students. However, using proximity to public alternatives as an instrument for opting out of the assigned public school, the author finds no significant benefit of opting out on student achievement and that those who opt out of their default public schools often perform significantly worse on standardized tests than similar students who stay behind. The results further suggest that the short-run detrimental effects of opting out are stronger for students who opt out closer to the terminal grade of the school level. Yet the detrimental effects are weaker for disadvantaged students, who typically constitute the proposed target of school choice reforms.
Citation: Umut Özek (2009). The Effects of Open Enrollment on School Choice and Student Outcomes. CALDER Working Paper No. 26
No Child Left Behind judges the effectiveness of schools based on their students' achievement status. However, many policy analysts argue that schools should be measured, instead, by their students' achievement growth. Using a ten-year student-level panel dataset from North Carolina, we examine how school-specific pressure related to two school accountability approaches (status and growth) affects student achievement at different points in the prior-year achievement distribution. Achievement gains for students below the proficiency cut point emerge in response to both types of accountability systems. We find little or no evidence that schools in North Carolina ignore students far below proficiency under either approach. Importantly, we find that the status, but not the growth, approach reduces the reading achievement of higher performing students, with the losses in the aggregate exceeding the gains at the bottom. The distributional effects of accountability pressure depend on the type of pressure for which schools are held accountable and the tested subject.
Citation: Helen Ladd, Douglas Lauen (2009). Status vs. Growth: The Distributional Effects of School Accountability Policies. CALDER Working Paper No. 21
This paper uses evidence from Durham, North Carolina to examine the impact of school choice on racial and class-based segregation across schools. The findings suggest that school choice increases segregation. Furthermore, the effects of choice on segregation by class are larger than the effects on segregation by race. These results are consistent with the theoretical argument—developed in sociology and economics literature—that the segregating choices of students from advantaged backgrounds are likely to outweigh any integrating choices by disadvantaged students.
Citation: Robert Bifulco, Helen Ladd, Stephen Ross (2008). Public School Choice and Integration: Evidence from Durham, North Carolina. CALDER Working Paper No. 14
This paper examines the effect of accountability policy on school practices and student outcomes with remarkably comprehensive and detailed data that include a multi-wave five-year survey of the census of public schools in Florida and administrative data on individual student performance over time. The authors show that low-performing schools facing accountability pressure changed their instructional practices in meaningful ways. In addition, they present medium-run evidence school accountability promotes improved student test scores, and find that a significant portion of these test score gains can likely be attributed to the changes in school policies and practices uncovered in these surveys.
Citation: Cecilia Rouse, Jane Hannaway, Dan Goldhaber, David Figlio (2007). Feeling the Florida Heat?: How Low-Performing Schools Respond to Voucher and Accountability Pressure. CALDER Working Paper No. 13