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On the Bubble of Success? The Role of LEAP Performance Thresholds in New Orleans Schools

Jon Valant and Robert Santillano

Date & Time
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
12:00–1:00 pm
Tulane Medical School Building
1555 Poydras St., 7th Floor
Room 760
New Orleans LA 70112 Map and directions

Louisiana, like other states, holds schools accountable for the percentage of students scoring above performance thresholds on state tests. For example, our schools get points toward their School Performance Scores when students perform above any threshold such as Basic. In theory, this can create an incentive for schools to concentrate efforts on students near a threshold, which may come at the expense of other students who score far below or above the thresholds.

Researchers have documented this so-called “bubble effect” in other states. However, Louisiana differs from other states by providing extra points for reaching multiple proficiency thresholds (Approaching Basic, Basic, Mastery, Advanced). The New Orleans school reform setting also changes the potential for bubble effects by adding additional stakes to accountability for schools at risk of takeover or closure.

This study investigates whether bubble effects are present in Louisiana and whether they are intensified in the high-stakes setting of New Orleans school reform. Changes in test scores are compared for students near and far from performance cut-points to measure bubble effects in New Orleans and statewide. Is there evidence of bubble effects in Louisiana? Has this changed with post-Katrina changes to accountability rules? Are these effects more pronounced in New Orleans? The answers have important implications for how to interpret test score trends in the city and support the growth of all students.

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