Fifty Ways to Leave a Child Behind: Idiosyncrasies and Discrepancies in States' Implementation of Nclb

36 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2013 Last revised: 9 May 2013

See all articles by Elizabeth Davidson

Elizabeth Davidson

Columbia University - Teachers' College

Randall Reback

Columbia University, Barnard College - Department of Economics

Jonah E. Rockoff

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

Heather Schwartz

RAND Corporation

Date Written: April 2013

Abstract

The No Child Left Behind (NLCB) Act required states to adopt accountability systems measuring student proficiency on state administered exams. Based on 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 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.

Suggested Citation

Davidson, Elizabeth and Reback, Randall L. and Rockoff, Jonah E. and Schwartz, Heather, Fifty Ways to Leave a Child Behind: Idiosyncrasies and Discrepancies in States' Implementation of Nclb (April 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18988. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2258272

Elizabeth Davidson

Columbia University - Teachers' College ( email )

525 W. 120th St.
New York, NY 10027
United States

Randall L. Reback

Columbia University, Barnard College - Department of Economics ( email )

3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Jonah E. Rockoff

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

Heather Schwartz

RAND Corporation ( email )

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