Pressuring kids to go to school and perform is one thing, but there may be some unexpected consequences

I found this study on the effects of No Child Left Behind via @DTWillingham. On this legislation from Wikipedia:

“According to the legislation, schools must pass yearly tests that judge student improvement over the fiscal year. These yearly standardized tests are the main means of determining whether schools live up to required standards. If required improvements are not made, the schools face decreased funding and other punishments that contribute to the increased accountability. According to supporters, these goals help teachers and schools realize the significance and importance of the educational system and how it affects the nation. Opponents of this law say that the punishments only hurt the schools and do not contribute to the improvement of student education.”

While the accountability from No Child Left Behind did work as it made kids show up:

“We show, first, that accountability pressure improves student behaviors that are directly or tangentially incentivized, namely, improving students’ ability to “be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there.”


“…the estimated effects are typically larger in failing schools that are under sanction than in those that have not previously failed.”

But with every wish comes a curse as this also leads to more fights and misbehavior at school:

“…accountability pressure generates increases in anti-social behaviors on the part of students. Thus accountability pressure at the school level is transferred down to the student level, and not always in positive ways, presumably because schools devote time and resources to improving incentivized behaviors at the expense of ignoring other behaviors. Following school failure, schools experience noticeable increases in misbehaviors that lead to suspensions, sexual offenses, and reportable offenses that cannot be attributed to other aspects of the school. Further, we have shown that changes in misbehavior are exacerbated among minority and low-performing students—those that supporters of No Child Left Behind explicitly hoped would not be left behind.”

So it means: putting pressure on teachers and schools wil also put extra pressure on kids in an unexpected way.

Abstract of the study:

In this paper we examine how failing to make adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and the accountability pressure that ensues, affects various non-achievement student behaviors. Using administrative data from North Carolina and leveraging a discontinuity in the determination of school failure, we examine the causal impact of accountability pressure both on student behaviors that are incentivized by NCLB and on those that are not. We find evidence that, as NCLB intends, pressure encourages students to show up at school and to do so on time. Accountability pressure also has the unintended effect, however, of increasing the number of student misbehaviors such as suspensions, fights, and offenses reportable to law enforcement. Further, this negative response is most pronounced among minorities and low performing students, who are the most likely to be left behind.

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