Free Content The Promise and Pitfalls of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures

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Abstract:

In recent years, most states have constructed elaborate accountability systems using school-level test scores. However, because the median elementary school contains only 69 children per grade level, such measures are quite imprecise. We evaluate the implications for school accountability systems. For instance, rewards or sanctions for schools with scores at either extreme primarily affect small schools and provide weak incentives to large ones. Nevertheless, we conclude that accountability systems may be worthwhile. Even in states with aggressive financial incentives, the marginal reward to schools for raising student performance is a small fraction of the potential labor market value for students.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/089533002320950993

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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