Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, Vol. 30, No. 2, 75-110
This study examines longitudinal student progress and achievement on the elementary, middle, and high school levels in relation to accountability policy incentives in a large urban district in Texas. Using quantitative analyses supplemented by qualitative interviews, the authors found that high-stakes testing policies that rewarded and punished schools based on average student scores created incentives for schools to "game the system" by excluding students from testing and, ultimately, school. In the elementary grades, low-achieving students were disproportionately excluded from taking the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Academic Skills tests, demonstrating gains not reflected on the low-stakes Stanford Achievement Test–Ninth Edition. Student exclusion at the elementary level occurred through special education and language exemptions and missing scores. Furthermore, gaming strategies reduced educational opportunity for African American and Latino high school students. Sharp increases in 9th-grade student retention and disappearance were associated with increases in 10th-grade test scores and related accountability ratings.
A new book, Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes, provides a powerful analysis of these different ends of an ideological spectrum – from market-based experiments to strong state investments in public education.