NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 1, 2005

The National Bureau of Economic Research studied various school accountability programs between 1980 and 2001 and found that accountability has great potential to improve student achievment.

The authors analyzed various states -- some with accountability programs, some without -- using the National Assessment of Educational Progress. They found that:

  • Accountability standards leads to higher achievement growth than would have occurred without accountability.
  • However, simply reporting results of tests has a minimal impact on performance -- the systems are much more effective if poor educational results have adverse consequences for the schools.
  • After accounting for family composition and income, Hispanic students gained most from accountability, while blacks gain the least.

While achievement did approve across all races, it is not an effective instrument for reducing the white-black achievement gap. Under accountability programs, white students improved more than black students, say the authors.

But, they also found that accountability programs did not result in assigning more students into special education classes. While the proportion of students assigned to special-ed classes rose from 10 percent to over 13 percent between 1980 and 2001, this was already an on-going trend and not impacted by the introduction of accountability programs.

Source: David R. Francis, "School Accountability Raises Educational Performance," NBER Digest, February 2005; based upon: Eric Hanushek and Margaret Raymond, "Does School Accountability Lead to Improved Student Performance?" National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 10591, June 2004.

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