A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US has looked at the long-term impact of school accountability measures.
In 1993 the state of Texas introduced school accountability based on how well students did in 10th grade (Year 11) tests in maths, reading, and writing. Schools rated as Low-Performing would undergo an evaluation, and perhaps redundancies, reorganisation, or closure.
Researchers have now looked at the performance of the first students who were affected by this policy, and followed them through to age 25. They found that students scored significantly higher on the 10th grade exam when they were in a cohort that was at risk of receiving a Low-Performing rating, and this was particularly true for students with low baseline achievement. In later life, these students were more likely to attend and graduate from a four-year college course, and have higher earnings at age 25.
In contrast, schools that were close to an acceptable (known as “Recognized”) rating responded differently. They classified more low-scoring students as eligible for special education, and thus excluded them from the pool of test-takers. The scores and future earnings of these low-scoring students declined.
The report concludes that the accountability policy resulted in long-term gains for students in schools at risk of failing; but was detrimental to schools that were performing at a higher level. However, the authors caution against the broad applicability of their results.
Source: School Accountability, Postsecondary Attainment and Earnings (2013), NBER.