Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality

50 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2008

See all articles by Jonah E. Rockoff

Jonah E. Rockoff

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Lesley J. Turner

Columbia University

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 31, 2008

Abstract

In November of 2007, the New York City Department of Education assigned each elementary and middle school a letter grade (A to F) as part of a new accountability system. Grades were based on continuous numeric scores derived from levels and changes in student achievement and other school environmental factors such as attendance, and were linked to a system of rewards and consequences for schools and principals. We use the discontinuities in the assignment of letter grades to estimate the impact of accountability in the short run. Specifically, we examine student achievement in English Language Arts and mathematics (measured in January and March of 2008, respectively) using school level aggregate data. Despite the fact that schools had only a few months to respond to the release of accountability grades, we find that receipt of a low grade significantly increased student achievement in both subjects, with larger effects in math. We find no evidence that accountability grades were related to the percentage of students tested, implying that accountability systems can cause real changes in school quality that increase student achievement over even a short time horizon. We also find that parental evaluations of educational quality improved considerably for schools receiving low accountability grades. However, the increase in survey response rates was also larger among these schools, holding open the possibility of selection bias in these complementary results.

Keywords: school reform, accountability

JEL Classification: I2

Suggested Citation

Rockoff, Jonah E. and Turner, Lesley J., Short Run Impacts of Accountability on School Quality (August 31, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1261682 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1261682

Jonah E. Rockoff (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Lesley J. Turner

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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