The Structural Attributes of Low- and High-Performing High Schools: Success Rates in High Stakes Testing in Washington State

Nikolas D. Pharris-Ciurej, University of Washington
Charles Hirschman, University of Washington

The beginning of the 21st century saw a refocusing on the productivity of U.S. public education. The focus has been both in terms of demanding that schools produce learning and that this production leave no child behind. Such focus has pushed for a new set of high-stakes testing and a general concern for the observed wide variation in the rates of success across schools. In this study we use data from the state of Washington to explore what structural features of schools explain the variation in success rates in passing the state’s Washington Assessment of Student Learning exam (WASL) among 10th grade students. Several school characteristics are correlated with WASL success, but almost half of the between-school variation in WASL success is explained by an index of poverty of students. The negative sanctions of high-stakes testing will reinforce the very high correlation between socioeconomic status and high school completion.

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Presented in Session 132: Education Policy and Child Outcomes