The Response to High-Stakes Testing in Chile: Did Schools Improve Learning or Merely Inflate Test Scores?
39 Pages Posted: 27 Jan 2017 Last revised: 21 Nov 2018
Date Written: May 30, 2018
High-stakes testing pressures schools to raise test scores, but schools respond to pressure in different ways. Some responses produce real, broad increases in learning, but other responses merely inflate average scores by narrowing instruction around tested skills and narrowing testing to high-performing students. We estimate the effect of an accountability program on reading scores, math scores, and teacher behavior in Chile. Over a six-year period, reading and math scores rose by 0.2 to 0.3 standard deviations, and half the rise was due to the accountability program. Responses to the program were mixed. Schools, especially schools serving disadvantaged students, inflated their accountability ratings by having up to 30 percent of low-performing students miss high-stakes tests. Teachers increased their preparation time, but they also narrowed their teaching. Teachers shifted focus toward test preparation at the expense of broader activities, such as debates, final projects, and presentations. Teachers focused on the tested subjects of reading and math at the expense of science, the arts, and morality. To encourage healthier responses to accountability, we recommend making tests broader and less predictable, setting accountability goals that are attainable for schools with disadvantaged students, and providing incentives for all students to take high-stakes tests.
Keywords: Education, Accountability, Missing Data
JEL Classification: H52, I22, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation