Accountability Texas-style: The progress and learning of urban minority students in a high-stakes testing context

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Linda Darling-Hammond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


This study examines longitudinal student progress and achievement on the elementary, middle, and high school levels in relation to accountability policy incentives in a large urban district in Texas. Using quantitative analyses supplemented by qualitative interviews, the authors found that high-stakes testing policies that rewarded and punished schools based on average student scores created incentives for schools to "game the system" by excluding students from testing and, ultimately, school. In the elementary grades, low-achieving students were disproportionately excluded from taking the high-stakes Texas Assessment of Academic Skills tests, demonstrating gains not reflected on the low-stakes Stanford Achievement Test-Ninth Edition. Student exclusion at the elementary level occurred through special education and language exemptions and missing scores. Furthermore, gaming strategies reduced educational opportunity for African American and Latino high school students. Sharp increases in 9th-grade student retention and disappearance were associated with increases in 10th-grade test scores and related accountability ratings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-110
Number of pages36
JournalEducational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to gratefully acknowledge the support of the Rockefeller Foundation in conducting this research. The findings and views expressed are ours alone.


  • Accountability
  • Dropout
  • Minorities
  • Pushout
  • Testing
  • Urban education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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