Essays on the Impact of School Accountability
Comprised of three related chapters, this dissertation evaluates the effects of the North Carolina School Accountability System on agents in different markets using, in most part, school data provided by the North Carolina Education Research Data Center. North Carolina introduced its primary school improvement program, the ABCs of NC, in 1997. The model includes growth and performance composites and recognized/rewarded schools for performing well. In response to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the state introduced a second accountability program, AYP, to run in conjunction with the ABC system. The AYP program focuses on closing the achievement gap and its primary goal is for all public school children to perform at grade level in reading and mathematics by the end of the 2013-14 school year. Failure to show improvement toward this goal leads to sanctions and increased accountability pressures at the school level. This dissertation seeks to determine the impact of the school accountability program on two groups of individuals - teachers and homebuyers.
Chapter 1 examines the influence of school accountability on teacher mobility. I estimate the effect of accountability incentives - teacher bonuses under the ABCs, and accountability pressures - threats and sanctions under AYP, on teacher mobility between schools. I investigate how the state's two accountability systems affect the distribution of teachers to schools, and in particular the willingness of quality teachers to teach in schools where student achievement is low. I provide empirical evidence on the differential effects the two accountability systems have on the ability of low-performing schools to employ quality teachers. It may be that bonus given under the state's ABC system can help to offset high turnover rates in schools that face increased accountability pressure under the AYP system. Or conversely, if schools that face increased accountability pressure are not able to perform well enough to receive bonuses it may lead to even higher turnover rates. These higher turnover rates will undoubtedly place personal burdens on students, administrators, and parents; ultimately undermining the primary goals of performance gains under school accountability.
In Chapter 2, I examine the affect the labeling of schools under the ABC system has on the housing market. Since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, each state is required to publicly report school quality measures and student test performance. Many states, including North Carolina, were already reporting their own quality measure and since 2002 have included an additional quality measure to meet the newer federal requirements. There has been extensive research documenting the relationship between housing prices and test scores at local public schools. Given the research, one may presume additional information about school quality to also influence the housing market.
This chapter examines whether state reported school quality measures influence household sorting decisions, using a regression discontinuity approach and comprehensive data on real estate transactions over the period 2003-2007. The results suggest that even when taking into account student performance on test scores and other variables the market's response to the release of information related to school quality provided by the state's recognition system is significant.
Chapter 3 provides a narrative on the extent to which public perceptions of the quality of local schools correspond to actual service quality. The chapter also discusses ways in which the relationship between actual and perceived school quality may vary across different groups of people, specifically parents of school-age children, homeowners, and minority or low-income households. The results in chapter 2 suggest that public accountability systems may have a causal effect on citizen perceptions of service quality.
However, due to data limitations, very few economics studies have analyzed the relationship between school accountability and public perceptions. With the use of a perceptions survey of North Carolina residents, I propose a study investigating public perceptions of the quality of public schools and the degree to which they freely available information about the level of school quality and student performance at the schools.
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