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Accountability, Inequality, and Achievement: The Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on Multiple Measures of Student Learning

Abstract

"Scholars continue to debate whether gains on the state tests used for accountability generalize to other measures of student achievement. Using panel data on students from a large urban school district, we estimate the impact of accountability pressure related to the No Child Left Behind Act on two measures of academic achievement: the state test and an 'audit' test that is not tied to the accountability system. Overall, we find that accountability pressure is associated with increased state test scores in math and lower audit math and reading test scores. However, the sources of state and audit test score divergence varied by students' race. Black students in schools facing the most accountability pressure made no gains on state tests, and their losses on audit math tests were twice as large as those of Hispanic students. These findings highlight the importance of better understanding the mechanisms that produce heterogeneous effects of accountability pressure across achievement measures and subgroups."

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