most severe sanctions in the medium to long term. This perspective predicts that schools virtually certain to fail to meet AYP targets will have the largest accountability-induced gaps, schools at the margin will have somewhat smaller gaps, and schools at low risk of failure will have no gap or negative gaps overall. Table 5 presents the effects of accountabil- ity pressure defined as high and low risk of failing to meet AYP targets for all students and separate estimates for black, Hispanic, and ec- onomically disadvantaged students. If schools are only focused on short-term incentives, we would expect to see the greatest response by schools at medium risk of failing to meet AYP targets. The first coeﬃcient in column 1 of ta- ble 5, 0.0418, indicates that for all students the high-risk–medium- risk difference in math state test scores is about 4 percent of a stan- dard deviation. In other words, students in schools at high risk of failing to meet AYP tar- gets have higher math state test scores in the subsequent year than students in schools at the margin of passing AYP targets. By contrast, students in schools at high risk have lower math audit test scores (−0.0585) in the subse- quent year than students in schools at the mar- gin. The accountability-induced state test–au- dit test gap is therefore 0.100 of a standard deviation, which indicates that relative to stu- dents in schools at the margin of passing AYP targets, students in schools at high risk of do- ing so have larger gaps. The high-risk–medium- risk differential in the reading gap is also pos- itive, but smaller, at 0.0413. Turning to the low-risk–medium-risk differential, we find neg- ative gap scores in math and no gap in reading. Students in low-risk schools gained on audit tests even as their state tests declined. We note that these results are not due to ceiling effects on the state tests. Overall, the pattern of coeﬃcients in table 5 suggests that when schools face additional pressure, they either become more aligned to state standards or “teach to the test.” We make this inference because high-risk schools see in- creases in state test scores and decreases in audit test scores in both subjects, while low- risk schools are more likely to make progress on the audit test. Our results alone cannot dif- ferentiate between these two mechanisms, but we believe that it is important to note that greater accountability pressure appears to pro- duce specific versus general gains. We return to the normative questions raised by this find- ing in the discussion. Moving to the subgroup results, the bottom panels of table 5 show that black, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged students ex- perience approximately the same accountability- induced state test–audit test gap in high- and low-risk schools in both subjects. However, the sources of the gap vary across subgroups, for the math test in particular. Based on our point estimates, black students in high-risk schools experience audit test losses approximately twice as large as those experienced by Hispanic
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- Winter '11
- No child left behind Act, Standardized test, NCLB, accountability pressure