Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in Education

Incentives and Test-Based Accountability cover

While critics of test-based accountability
systems are raising
a glass
to this recently released National Research Council report, they may want to
cork the bottle while some bubbles remain in it. Authored by the NRC-established
Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability, this report set out to
examine the nature of incentives and to determine the extent to which existing
state accountability programs have raised student achievement. It begins with
an overview of successful incentive-based structures (explaining their key
aspects, like targeting incentives to those with the authority to make a
difference). From this overview, the authors conclude that current accountability
systems are not designed to make the most of their incentive structures. As
such, state-based accountability systems a la NCLB produce only modest gains in
student performance (the equivalent of a student moving from the 50th to the
53rd percentile). But, as Eric
Hanushek points out
, even these modest gains can produce big results in
productivity; if history holds, such gains would translate into an additional
$13 trillion in future GDP. The NRC report correctly declares that there is much
room for improvement in test-based accountability systems, and calls for
further experimentation and research. All in all, the report’s analysis (if not
its promotional materials) conclude that test-based incentives could—with
tweaks—work much better. And Gadfly can drink to that.

Click to read

Read more about this report on Flypaper.

More By Author