BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Research by Jaekyung Lee, PhD, professor of
counseling, school and educational psychology at the University at
Buffalo, is helping to expose failures in America's controversial
test-driven educational policies.
Lee's research was part of a recently released report by the
Board of Testing and Assessment, a branch of the National Research
Council titled, "Incentives and Test-Based Accountability in
Education." His article presents a meta-analysis of 14 studies on
the effects of test-driven external accountability policies on
reading and math achievement.
A copy of Lee's study is available here.
The other selected studies in the report examine whether or not
high school exit exams, teacher performance pay, direct student
rewards and test-based incentive programs, such as 2001's No Child
Left Behind Act (NCLB), are effective at achieving high academic
The report concludes that these different approaches have not
consistently generated positive effects on student achievement.
Lee's research, specifically, was instrumental for the report's
conclusion and was identified as the "preferred estimate" for
test-based school incentive program effects.
"This report is very timely and critical for ongoing debates
about NCLB and the future directions of national education policy,"
says Lee. "Previous studies often were long on description but
short on prescription."
Lee reviewed study results that used cross-state
causal-comparative or correlational studies of high stakes testing
and accountability policy. His review was restricted to studies
that used independent national test measures such as data from the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the National
Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS). Lee wanted studies that were
free of the potential risk of biased or contaminated results.
His review examined variations among the 14 studies and asked
questions like: how were state accountability policies defined and
measured, how were students, schools and states chosen for analysis
and what statistical methods were used.
Some of Lee's findings:
• Past research on the impact of test-driven accountability
policy on achievement falls short of meeting rigorous scientific
• Evidence on the effects of accountability policy on
academic achievement must be weighed carefully with more evidence
on potential harms and risks
• The meta-analysis of 76 effect sizes from 14 selected
studies showed weak effect on improving average achievement and no
effect on narrowing the racial achievement gap
School-level incentives -- like those of NCLB -- produce some of
the larger effects among the programs studied, but the gains are
concentrated primarily in elementary grade mathematics and
countered by lowered high school gains, and are small in comparison
with the improvements the nation hopes to achieve, Lee says.
Evidence also suggests that high school exit exam programs, as
implemented in many states, actually decrease the rate of high
school graduation without increasing student achievement.
"Unfortunately, recent economic recession and budget cuts led
the government to seek cheaper and faster programmatic solutions,
while generating many underfunded mandates and cutting investments
in capacity-building and infrastructure," says Lee.
The report, which was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of
New York and the Flora Hewlett Foundation, urges policymakers to
support the development of promising new models that use test-based
incentives in more sophisticated ways, as one aspect of a richer
accountability and improvement process.
"We need balance between short-term incentives and long-term
capacity building to improve education" says Lee. "I suggest
stronger national and state support for school capacity-building,
including smaller classes, better trained teachers and
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State
University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their
academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate
and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University
at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American