Economic Policy Review
Unintended Consequences of School Accountability Policies: Evidence from Florida and Implications for New York
2013 Volume 19, Number 1, May
JEL classification: H40, I21, I28

Authors: Rajashri Chakrabarti and Noah Schwartz

Over the past two decades, state and federal education policies have tried to hold schools more accountable for educating students by tying rewards and sanctions to test scores and other measurable outcomes. A common criticism of these policies is that they may induce schools to “game the system” along with—or instead of—making genuine educational improvements. One such strategic response may be to classify low-performing students into categories that are excluded from grade computation in an effort to artificially inflate scores. This article analyzes school responses to an influential accountability-tied voucher program in Florida. The authors find evidence of increased classification into “excluded” categories in failing schools following the program's inception. Their findings have important implications for New York City's Progress Reports program and New York's implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. While these policies were modeled after the Florida program, they contain important design differences that are likely to discourage this type of gaming, although they may encourage other strategic classifications.

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