No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.

Systemic Responses to High Stakes Accountability Policies in Six Southern States

Published in: American Journal of Education, v. 114, no. 2, Feb. 2008, p. 299-332

Posted on on February 01, 2008

by V. Darleen Opfer, Gary T. Henry, Andrew J. Mashburn

Read More

Access further information on this document at

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

High stakes accountability (HSA) reforms were enacted in state after state and federally through the No Child Left Behind law, based on the belief that incentives that have consequences attached are effective ways to motivate educators to improve student performance. Our focus for this article is on school district level responses to HSA reforms that could produce positive changes in teaching and learning. We set out to determine whether a district effect was present in the implementation of HSA systems in six southern states and whether that effect was accompanied by the types of activities previously identified in the research literature as being associated with changes in teaching and learning and student achievement. We tested a theory of action that assumed that HSA would cause school districts to develop coherent instructional strategies that would be evidenced by the provision of coherent, high-quality professional development and the alignment of district policy and resources in support of school improvement. These activities on the part of districts would then improve student achievement as measured by state tests.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.