January 26, 2017

Beth C. Rubin, (848) 932-0677, beth.rubin@gse.rutgers.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

Recommendations from two accountability reports on "high achievers" could further educational inequities, academic review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Jan. 26, 2017) — State accountability systems have several purposes, most of which include improving teaching and learning to ensure all students receive quality instruction and opportunities to learn. Two recent think tank reports from the Fordham Institute called into question the impact of accountability systems on "high achievers." The reports claimed that states have failed to address the needs of higher-scoring students, and that state accountability systems should be redesigned under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with those students in mind. Though, an academic review of the reports finds that the recommendations could result in a furthering of the inequitable educational opportunities that ESSA was designed to reduce.

Beth Rubin, Rutgers University, reviewed the reports, High Stakes for High Achievers and High Stakes for High Schoolers, for the Think Twice think tank review project. Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, is funded in part by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Despite arguing that "high achievers" are being neglected educationally, Rubin's review finds that both reports fail to address the concerns productively.

Rubin identifies four key areas that need strengthening:

  1. The reports' central assumptions about higher-achieving students are problematic;
  2. Growth measures are not an effective means for directing attention to higher-achieving students;
  3. Narrow, high-stakes forms of assessment may negatively impact the education provided to these students; and
  4. Further stratifying educational settings and reallocation of resources to these students has troublesome implications for the democratic goals of education.

Rubin concludes that these reports contribute to the collective discussion regarding the federal role in education, but they must be approached with caution.

She says, "the policy changes recommended by the reports are overly simplistic and do not take into account the complexities of evaluating student growth, the impact of high-stakes testing on the quality of students' educational experiences, and the needs of the underserved students who are the focus of [the] ESSA."

Find the review on the GLC website:

Find both reports on the Fordham Institute website:

Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

The review can also be found on the NEPC website:

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The mission of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research & Practice is to support and disseminate high quality research and reviews of research for the purpose of informing education policy and to develop research-based resources for use by those who advocate for education reform.

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