On school choice and test-based accountability.

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Among the two most prominent school reform measures currently being implemented in The United States are school choice and test-based accountability. Until recently, the two policy initiatives remained relatively distinct from one another. With the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), a mutualism between choice and accountability emerged whereby school choice complements test-based accountability. In the first portion of this study we present a conceptual overview of school choice and test-based accountability and explicate connections between the two that are explicit in reform implementations like NCLB or implicit within the market-based reform literature in which school choice and test-based accountability reside. In the second portion we scrutinize the connections, in particular, between school choice and test-based accountability using a large western school district with a popular choice system in place. Data from three sources are combined to explore the ways in which school choice and test-based accountability draw on each other: state assessment data of children in the district, school choice data for every participating student in the district choice program, and a parental survey of both participants and non-participants of choice asking their attitudes concerning the use of school report cards in the district. Results suggest that choice is of benefit academically to only the lowest achieving students, choice participation is not uniform across different ethnic groups in the district, and parents' primary motivations as reported on a survey for participation in choice are not due to test scores, though this is not consistent with choice preferences among parents in the district. As such, our results generally confirm the hypotheses of choice critics more so than advocates. Keywords: school choice; accountability; student testing.


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How to Cite
Betebenner, D. W. ., Howe, K. R. ., & Foster, S. S. . (2005). On school choice and test-based accountability. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 13, 41. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v13n41.2005
Author Biographies

Damian W. Betebenner, Boston College

Damian W. Betebenner is assistant professor in the Department of Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation. His research interests include longitudinal data analysis and applied statistics—particularly as they pertain to education policy.

Kenneth R. Howe, University of Colorado

Kenneth R. Howe is professor in the Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice program area. He specializes in education policy, professional ethics, and philosophy of education.

Samara S. Foster, University of Colorado

Samara S. Foster is a doctoral student in the School of Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is in the Research and Evaluation Methodology and Educational Foundations, Policy, and Practice programs. Her research interests include philosophy of education, philosophy of social science research, education policy, and feminist theory.