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Lauen, Douglas L. (2013). Jumping at the Chance: The Effects of Accountability Incentives on Student Achievement. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 6(2), 93-113.


Pay for performance plans are spreading across the country due to the Obama administration's $4 billion Race to the Top initiative, which places a high priority on merit pay. Through a program that involved public accountability and bonuses, the state of North Carolina awarded more than $1 billion in school-based performance bonuses for meeting test score growth targets between 1997 and 2009. Using statewide student-level data from North Carolina, I examine the effects of accountability consequences on test scores in 2008, a year in which math and reading scores were ?high stakes? and science tests were ?low stakes.? Results from nonparametric discontinuity models show that at the margin, accountability incentives cause higher reading gains and have no adverse effects on science scores or on low achieving students. Incentive effects on science are generally positive rather than negative. Effects on science are much stronger in low-poverty schools, however, which suggests that interventions implemented in these schools to increase math and reading scores may have complemented, rather than substituted for, science instruction.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness


Lauen, Douglas L.