Working paper

Reconciling long-term education policy goals with short-term school accountability models



Schools are increasingly held accountable for their contributions to students’ academic growth in math and reading. Under The Every Student Succeeds Act, most states are estimating how much schools improve student achievement over time and using those growth metrics to identify the bottom 5% of schools for remediation. These growth determinations are often based on student test scores from two to three years of data. Yet, many objectives ascribed to schools under federal and state policy involve improving much longer-term student outcomes, including preparing students for college. To date, little research has investigated the implications of this discrepancy for school accountability. We begin to close that gap by examining how much rank orderings of schools change when basing estimates of student growth on short- versus long-term timespans. Our results indicate that estimated school effectiveness is highly sensitive to the timespan, suggesting that short-term accountability policies may be generating unintended consequences relative to long-term goals like preparing students for college.

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