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High School Student Achievement and College Enrollment in the Absence of School Improvement Interventions: Evidence from Kentucky

Alex E. Combs
PFM, Vol. 22 No. 1, 90-110 (2023)

One challenge of accountability in education is balancing local discretion over the use of resources with state and federal constraints designed to improve performance. This study isolates the impact of ending restrictive federal interventions on high school achievement and college enrollment for students attending failing schools prior to the implementation of new state-level interventions. Based on a difference-in-differences analysis, 12th-grade students attending schools that had No Child Left Behind interventions recently waived were 3-4 percentage points more likely to enroll in a four-year institution and 2-4 points more likely to enroll full-time compared to students attending underperforming schools not previously subject to interventions. These positive effects increase with the severity of intervention removed and were concentrated among white, male students with a relatively low probability of college enrollment. The analysis found no evidence that waiving interventions affected high school achievement. The findings offer insights into the consequences of policies that allow for high levels of local discretion over the use of resources as well as interruptions that can occur during the transition between accountability models.

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