Our Research

 

The following papers use our 2002-03 and 2003-04 NCLB data to examine the impact of incentives under No Child Left Behind:

 

Fifty Ways to Leave a Child Behind: Idiosyncrasies and Discrepancies in States’ Implementation of NCLB

 

Abstract

 

The No Child Left Behind (NLCB) Act required states to adopt accountability systems measuring student proficiency on state administered exams. Based on statewide student test score performance in 2002, states developed initial proficiency rate targets and future annual benchmarks designed to lead students to 100% proficiency on state exams by 2014. Any year a school fails to meet these targets, either across all students or by various subgroups of students, the school is does not make Adequate Yearly Progress. While the federal government’s legislation provided a framework for NCLB implementation, it also gave states flexibility in their interpretation of many NCLB components, and school failure rates ranged from less than 1% to more than 80% across states. In this paper, we explore how states’ NCLB implementation decisions affected their schools’ failure rates. Wide cross-state variation in failure rates resulted from how states’ decisions (e.g, confidence intervals applied to proficiency rates, numerical thresholds for a student subgroup to be held accountable) interacted with each other and with school characteristics like enrollment size, grade span, and ethnic diversity. Subtle differences in policy implementation led to dramatic differences in measured outcomes.

 

Under Pressure: Job Security, Resource Allocation, and Productivity in Schools Under NCLB

 

Abstract

 

The most sweeping federal education law in decades, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, requires states to administer standardized exams and to punish schools that do not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for the fraction of students passing these exams. While the literature on school accountability is well-established, there exists no nationwide study of the strong short-term incentives created by NCLB for schools on the margin of failing AYP. We assemble the first comprehensive, national, school-level dataset concerning detailed performance measures used to calculate AYP, and demonstrate that idiosyncrasies in state policies create numerous cases where schools near the margin for satisfying their own state‘s AYP requirements would have almost certainly failed or almost certainly made AYP if they were located in other states. Using this variation as a means of identification, we examine the impact of NCLB on the behavior of school personnel and students’ academic achievement in nationally representative samples. We find that accountability pressure from NCLB lowers teachers’ perceptions of job security and causes untenured teachers in high-stakes grades to work longer hours than their peers. We also find that NCLB pressure has either neutral or positive effects on students’ enjoyment of learning and their achievement gains on low-stakes exams in reading, math, and science.


Our prior studies of school accountability systems include the following publications:

 

 

Reback:

 

"Teaching to the Rating: School Accountability and the Distribution of Student Achievement," Journal of Public Economics, (2008) [PDF] [Corrigendum for Table 4]


"Tinkering Towards Accolades: School Gaming under a Performance Accountability System" (joint with Julie Cullen). Advances in Applied Microeconomics 14, (2006) [PDF]

 

Rockoff:

 

Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality" (with Lesley J. Turner), American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2(4): 119-147, (2010) [PDF]