Improving School Accountability Measures

Thomas J. Kane, Douglas O. Staiger

NBER Working Paper No. 8156
Issued in March 2001
NBER Program(s):   CH   PE

A growing number of states are using annual school-level test scores as part of their school accountability systems. We highlight an under-appreciated weakness of that approach the imprecision of school-level test score means -- and propose a method for better discerning signal from noise in annual school report cards. For an elementary school of average size in North Carolina, we estimate that 28 percent of the variance in 5th grade reading scores is due to sampling variation and about 10 percent is due to other non-persistent sources. More troubling, we estimate that less than half of the variance in the mean gain in reading performance between 4th and 5th grade is due to persistent differences between schools. We use these estimates of the variance components in an empirical Bayes framework to generate filtered' predictions of school performance, which have much greater predictive value than the mean for a single year. We also identify evidence of within-school heterogeneity in classroom level gains, which suggests the importance of teacher effects.

download in pdf format
   (1185 K)

email paper

This paper is available as PDF (1185 K) or via email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8156

Published: Kane, Thomas J. and Douglas O. Staiger. "The Promise And Pitfalls Of Using Imprecise School Accountability Measures," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2002, v16(4,Fall), 91-114.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Kane and Staiger w14607 Estimating Teacher Impacts on Student Achievement: An Experimental Evaluation
Hanushek and Raymond w10591 Does School Accountability Lead to Improved Student Performance?
Feng, Figlio, and Sass w16070 School accountability and teacher mobility
Dee and Jacob w15531 The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Student Achievement
Hanushek, Kain, O'Brien, and Rivkin w11154 The Market for Teacher Quality
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us