As good as advertised?: Tracking urban student progress through high school in an environment of accountability

Vasquez Heilig, J. (2011). As good as advertised?: Tracking urban student progress through high school in an environment of accountabilityAmerican Secondary Education, 39(3), 17-41.

No Child Left Behind’s mandated high-stakes testing and accountability policies have pervaded districts and schools nationwide. To examine student progress and graduation in the midst of first generation Texas-style accountability, this study tracked individuals in a longitudinal dataset of over 45,000 high school students in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Using descriptive cohort and inferential competing risk analyses, the study found evidence that student leavers were severely under-reported and graduation rates exaggerated. The majority of high school students in Houston actually failed to advance to graduation, and minority, LEP and economically disadvantaged students were disproportionately affected. An important question for the field, and the impending reauthorization of NCLB, is whether accountability policies are as good as advertised for urban schools.

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Categories: Accountability, African Americans, High-Stakes Testing, Latina/os

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

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  1. Bad Apples?: Accountability, AYP, and Cheating | Cloaking Inequity - August 10, 2012

    […] What is the scale of the manipulation of data? After 2005, when the state began to use the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) dropout definition for leaver reporting, the statewide dropout count tripled for Latina/os and quadrupled for African Americans. Clearly, El Paso and Atlanta are recent, but not isolated examples. The real issue is that accountability incentivizes “push out” secondary students who score poorly on high-stakes exams such as the STAAR. I blame our policymakers for a poorly designed educational policy— accountability is not as good as advertised. […]

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