Poster Paper: Worth the Investment? the Impact of Localized Accountability Systems on Student Achievement: Evidence from Philadelphia

Saturday, November 9, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Exhibits (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Haisheng Yang and Aaron Soo Ping Chow, University of Pennsylvania

The implementation of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in 2002 led to a centralization of school accountability. Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), however, the backlash to NCLB led to decentralized school accountability and more responsibility has been delegated to states and local districts. In this era, accountability has become more localized and many school districts have adopted their own rating systems. Although an extensive literature exists that evaluates the effect of accountability systems before and during NCLB (Carnoy & Loeb, 2002; Hanushek & Raymond, 2005; Dee & Jacob, 2011), little evidence exists on how local accountability pressures affect student achievement in the post-NCLB era. This research uses the School Progress Report (SPR), a local accountability tool introduced by the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) in 2012-13, to understand the effects of local accountability on school-level outcomes.

We aim to contribute to the accountability literature by addressing the following: 1) Is adoption of a local accountability tool predicted by demographic shifts in the student population? and 2) Does the SPR, and its associated sanctions, have an effect on student achievement, enrollment patterns, teacher mobility, or teacher effectiveness? This study considers all Pennsylvania public schools from the 2009-10 academic year through the 2015-16 academic year and utilizes academic achievement and teacher effectiveness data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s website, and school ratings from the School District of Philadelphia’s website. We utilize two empirical approaches to estimate the school ratings’ effect on our school outcomes in an event study framework and a regression discontinuity design. Initial results suggest that the SPR does not improve student achievement.

This work contributes to the literature on the design of local accountability systems and how accountability policies shape school-level outcomes. Our initial results contrast with a similar study by Rockoff and Turner (2010) which found that schools receiving the lowest grades on a school quality report in New York City significantly increase student achievement in both mathematics and ELA/reading within four to six months of receiving their accountability score. Similarly, Dizon-Ross (2018) found that schools with lower accountability ratings had lower teacher turnover and higher teacher quality. Unlike the school quality report in New York City, the SPR is currently a relatively low-stakes accountability tool, which has been demonstrated to have a low likelihood of influencing student achievement (Hanushek and Raymond, 2005). Our findings contribute evidence to be used in the discussion among people who have different perspectives on the effectivity of accountability systems in education.