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Status versus Growth: The Distributional Effects of School Accountability Policies*

By Helen F. Ladd and Douglas L. Lauen


Center, housed at Duke University, for providing us with access to the data for this Although the federal No Child Left Behind program judges the effectiveness of schools based on their students ’ achievement status, many policy analysts argue that schools should be measured, instead, by their students ’ achievement growth. Using a tenyear student-level panel dataset from North Carolina, we examine how school-specific pressure associated with the two approaches to school accountability affects student achievement at different points in the prior-year achievement distribution. Achievement gains for students below the proficiency cut point emerge in response to both types of accountability systems. In contrast to prior research highlighting the possibility of educational triage, we find little or no evidence that schools in North Carolina ignore the students far below proficiency under either approach. Importantly, we find that the status, but not the growth, approach reduces the reading achievement of higher performing students, with the losses in the aggregate exceeding the gains at the bottom. Our analysis suggests that the distributional effects of accountability pressure depend not only on th

Year: 2009
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