When Does Accountability Work?

In this study, the authors studied long-term effects of high-stakes testing in Texas, comparing high school student performance to college enrollment, college completion rates, and adult earnings. More specifically, they analyzed student outcomes between two types of schools: lower performing schools that were in danger of receiving a low school quality rating, and higher performing schools facing pressure to achieve a substantially higher school quality rating.

The authors found that accountability pressure improved long-term outcomes for students in lower performing schools but had the opposite result for students in higher achieving schools. They also found evidence that high achieving schools attempted to increase their school quality ratings by classifying many lower performing students into special education; thereby decreasing those students long-term outcomes. They discuss implications for the new Every Student Succeeds Act. 


Content Comments 

The purposes of this research study are effectively described and met, using reasonable methodology and a lack of bias. This may be one of the few but invaluable studies looking at accountability effects on student outcomes beyond high school. Consequently, utility should be very high.

Communications quality is solid. The authors write in an easy to understand style, although the format is just text. The authors draw reasonable conclusions, which are quite surprising but of long-term importance for accountability policy.  The overall quality of this resource suggests a possible effect on learning and thus reasonable evidence of effectiveness.