Distortion, disparity, and dubious data: The impact of accountability on instructional practice

Curtis J Barnes, University of Texas at El Paso


This study examined the impact that state and federal accountability systems have had on instructional practice in two large Texas school districts by comparing the performance of students at these schools on individual items from the 2011 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) and relating performance to item difficulty and the schools' accountability risk as determined by prior accountability performance. To make this comparison, schools were placed into accountability risk groups based on past performance on the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) accountability instrument. The researcher then calculated the mean differences between average performance on each item and compared them against the item difficulty score to determine if the relationship was significant. The relationship was tested for all groups, both isolating and excluding economically disadvantaged students and those with limited English proficiency. Inclusion in these groups was based on the coding the students were assigned in the state's assessment data file. This comparison used a simple regression analysis performed on SPSS statistical software, version 20. ^ The findings of the study revealed a statistically significant positive relationship between the gap in performance for each risk group and the item difficulty level, meaning that as item difficulty increased the gap between students in the various risk groups grew larger as well. Based on this study, the researcher questions how effective the federal accountability system is at determining school achievement.^

Subject Area

Education, Tests and Measurements|Education, Policy

Recommended Citation

Barnes, Curtis J, "Distortion, disparity, and dubious data: The impact of accountability on instructional practice" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3512000.