High Stakes Testing for Politicians? The Effects of Local Test Scores on Mayoral Elections
23 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
In recent years, cities have been the epicenter of education reform movements, especially with regard to accountability. This paper examines whether mayors pay a price at the polls when test scores in their local public schools drop. In the post-No Child Left Behind era, schools are required to publicly report their scores, making it easier for citizens and the media to know how the schools are doing on these indicators. And though mayors’ policies are not likely to have immediate positive or negative effects on school performance, voters often hold incumbents responsible for events over which they have little control. The analysis is based on survey data conducted in advance of mayoral contests in 16 cities in the United States between 2007 and 2009 that have been matched with data on test scores in each city. The results suggest that voters do reward incumbents for improvements in test scores, but only in competitive races. Further, voters are not more likely to hold mayors accountable in cities where mayors have control over the schools.
Keywords: Retrospective voting, mayoral elections, urban politics, test scores
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