Publications & Resources

School Improvement Under Test-Driven Accountability: A Comparison of High- and Low-Performing Middle Schools in California

May 2007

Heinrich Mintrop and Tina Trujillo

Based on in-depth data from nine demographically similar schools, the study asks five questions in regard to key aspects of the improvement process and that speak to the consequential validity of accountability indicators: Do schools that differ widely according to system performance criteria also differ on the quality of the educational experience they provide to students? Are schools that have posted high growth on the state’s performance index more effective organizationally? Do high-performing schools respond more productively to the messages of their state accountability system? Do high- and low-performing schools exhibit different approaches to organizational learning and teacher professionalism? Is district instructional management in an aligned state accountability system related to performance?

We report our findings in three results papers (Mintrop & Trujillo, 2007a, 2007b; Trujillo & Mintrop, 2007) and this technical report. The results papers, in a nutshell, show that, across the nine case study schools, one positive performance outlier differed indeed in the quality of teaching, organizational effectiveness, response to accountability, and patterns of organizational learning. Across the other eight schools, however, the patterns blurred. We conclude that, save for performance differences on the extreme positive and negative margins, relationships between system-designated performance levels and improvement processes on the ground are uncertain and far from solid. The papers try to elucidate why this may be so.

Mintrop, H., & Trujillo, R. (2007). School improvement under test-driven accountability: A comparison of high- and lowperforming middle schools in California (CSE Report 717). Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST).