Does Gaming the System Affect Students' Academic Achievement?

Booher-Jennings, Jennifer; Beveridge, Andrew A.

A growing body of evidence suggests that schools use test exemption to game educational accountability systems. However, it is not known whether test exemption affects students' academic progress. Analyzing data from an urban school district in Texas, the authors find that special education students make larger achievement gains when they are tested. Using their most conservative estimates, the effect of being tested is approximately .40 standard deviations in reading and .28 standard deviations in math for grades 3-8. Because special education students are more likely to be minority and poor students and these students are more likely to be exempted than their white and non-poor special education counterparts, the exemption of special education students contributes to the growth of black-white, Hispanic-white, and high-low socioeconomic status achievement gaps.

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Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy
Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University
ISERP Working Papers, 07-06
Published Here
August 16, 2010


May 2007.