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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Effective Accountability: Success of State Departments of Education at Promoting and Implementing State Standards and Test-based Accountability, 1981–2001

A. F. Shober, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Abstract: No Child Left Behind relies heavily on state departments of education to promote and enforce test-based accountability, but even a cursory survey of these state agencies indicates that their capabilities are vastly different. Using both cross-sectional and time-series models, I develop a causal model to explain agency ability to promote and execute accountability policy even in unfavorable political environments. Specifically, I study the state departments of Georgia, Ohio, and Wisconsin and the development of their accountability policy since 1981 and prior to No Child Left Behind. I use twenty years of state agency requests, legislative composition, bill introduction, gubernatorial messages, and student accountability measures to show the relative importance of agency leadership, placement of accountability budget requests versus other items, and existing levels of student performance as causes of increasing effective state responsibility for higher-stakes accountability. I find that all are necessary conditions to implement and maintain a rigorous, non-optional accountability program across all forms of schools. The implications of this work highlight the need for institutional independence of state departments of education and a minimum level of budget expenditures to hire and maintain a high-quality accountability staff to maintain a testing program in the face of opposition from (especially) suburban legislators and downward budget pressures.