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ERIC Number: ED509660
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Apr
Pages: 38
Abstractor: ERIC
Cramming: The Effects of School Accountability on College-Bound Students. Working Paper 7
Donovan, Colleen; Figlio, David; Rush, Mark
National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research
This paper presents the first evidence of the effects of school accountability systems on the long-term human capital development of high-performing, college-bound students. The results are mixed. On the one hand, the evidence is consistent that school accountability sanction threats are associated with changes in student study habits. Students who attended high schools that were threatened with accountability sanctions systematically study differently than did their school-mates who graduated from high school in an adjacent year but who were not directly affected by the school's threat of sanctions. Students from high schools threatened with sanctions postpone studying and cram more than students from the same high schools when the schools were not threatened with sanctions. The tendency toward increased cramming seems likely to result when threatened schools place a heavy emphasis on the outcomes of a specific test, rather than on overall learning outcomes over the entire year. The authors also find evidence that the induced increase in student cramming, "ceteris paribus", leads to reduced course performance in the classes in which the student crams. These results provide potential lessons for the design of accountability systems. The finding that students are apparently better prepared for college coursework in the specific subjects that are emphasized by the accountability system suggests that accountability systems that cover more subject areas may in turn produce better-prepared students. At the same time, the finding that students performed better when their schools were threatened with sanctions under a standards-based accountability system than under an accountability system with lower standards indicates that a system with high-quality tests closely aligned with rigorous standards is likely to yield better student preparation for higher education. A full set of coefficient estimates is appended. (Contains 1 figure, 10 tables and 9 footnotes.)
National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research. The Urban Institute, 2100 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-261-5739; Fax: 202-833-2477; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH); National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: Urban Institute, National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER)
IES Funded: Yes
Grant or Contract Numbers: R305A060067