At-risk student averse: Risk management and accountability

Vasquez Heilig, J., Young, M. & Williams, A. (2012). At-risk student averse: Risk management and accountability. Journal of Educational Administration, 50(5).

The prevailing theory of action underlying accountability is that holding schools and students accountable will increase educational output. While accountability’s theory of action intuitively seemed plausible, at the point of No Child Left Behind’s national implementation, little empirical research was available to either support or critique accountability claims or to predict the long term impact of accountability systems on the success of at-risk students and the schools that served them.  The findings reported in this paper challenge the proposition that accountability improves the educational outcomes of atrisk students and indicates that low-performing Texas high schools, when faced with the press of accountability, tend to mirror corporate risk management processes with unintended consequences for at-risk students. Low-scoring at-risk students were often viewed as liabilities by school personnel who, in their scramble to meet testing thresholds and accountability goals, were at-risk student averse— implementing practices designed to “force kids out of school.”

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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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