Aiming for Efficiency Rather than Proficiency

14 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2010

See all articles by Derek A. Neal

Derek A. Neal

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 3, 2010


The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 offers an accountability system that pairs vague, manipulable, and likely inefficient standards with threatened sanctions for failure to meet these standards that are not credible, and in one way or another, all of these problems arise from NCLB’s flawed focus on proficiency. The goal of accountability systems should be efficiency and not proficiency. Accountability systems should require schools receiving federal funds to demonstrate that they are using resources efficiently, and the most reliable way to promote efficiency is to organize competitions among schools and let the outcomes of these contests dictate which schools receive government funding and to what extent. Within this framework, voucher systems are not substitutes for accountability systems but instead may be one important component of the optimal accountability system.

Suggested Citation

Neal, Derek Allen, Aiming for Efficiency Rather than Proficiency (February 3, 2010). MFI Working Paper No. 2010-007, Available at SSRN: or

Derek Allen Neal (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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