Year of Publication

2012

College

Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Policy

Executive Summary

Education accountability measures, especially since the passage of No Child Left Behind, have been assessed for a variety of factors in empirical research. A large portion of this literature finds that overall, accountability measures increase performance, but also increase the achievement gap. These findings have inspired this research to examine what other marginal groups of students have been affected by the unintended reaction to the consequence-based incentives found in minimum competency accountability programs, such as No Child Left Behind.

In particular, this research looks at how the changes in a high school or school district’s Adequate Yearly Progress marks affect the dropout rate in Kentucky. This was completed by compiling two datasets from the years of 2006 - 2009, one at the school level and one at the district level. Both levels were reviewed to present a fuller picture of the changes that are occurring within the schools and districts. Each dataset was evaluated using both a fixed effects model and a between effects model, and because of the high correlation between AYP Reading and AYP Math the models were ran with both variables concurrently. Furthermore, each model was run with a non-lagged version of the AYP marks, and a lagged (t-1) version to encapsulate the changes happening in the same year, and also those carrying over into the following year’s dropout rates.

The primary results from the fixed effects model were that AYP Math marks at the district level are statistically significant and positively correlated with an increase in dropout rates, but this was only true for the non-lagged version of the data. The between effects model was ambiguous at the district level, but found that at the school level that AYP Reading is statistically significant and positively correlated with an increase dropout rate average levels. This was found to be true in both the non-lagged and lagged versions of the variables. Therefore, we have two findings, at the District level; AYP Math marks matter within schools, and at the School level, AYP Reading matters between schools. Because these two AYP measures are highly correlated, this provides evidence that would support the theory that as schools and districts focus on achieving AYP, it is at the detriment of the students that are on the margin of dropping out.

Despite the modest findings in this research, due to various limitations, the policy question of how accountability measures affect dropout rates is still relevant. An analysis of the dropout data distribution uncovered a policy concern, with a distinctive upper tail of schools and districts that are performing much worse than the majority, in regards to dropout rates. This finding is worth further review by policymakers. Finally, the findings in this research uncovered a pattern between AYP marks and dropout rates that warrant attention. These findings, combined with the literature on high-stakes testing, directs the recommendation towards further review in this area, as well as potential areas for program implementation that would target the lowest achievers to prevent dropping out. In short, the primary recommendation from these results is that further research is necessary and viable to ensure that policymakers address the unintended consequences of NCLB accountability measures.

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