Cornell University

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Joint PAM & Labor Economics Workshop: Sarah Prenovitz

Monday, October 30, 2017 at 11:40am to 1:10pm

Ives Hall, 115
B07 Tower Rd, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Sarah Prenovitz
Cornell University, Ph.D. Candidate

"Accountability Incentives and Special Education"

Approximately 13 percent of students in US public schools receive special education services for a wide array of disabilities. Despite this, very little is known about how special education affects student outcomes. Placement decisions are in theory based solely on students’ needs, but prior literature suggests that schools alter their special education populations in response to other factors. Recent accountability policies put in place since the enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 have presented schools with a new set of incentives to alter the special education population. Using administrative data from the universe of North Carolina Public Schools, I am the first to investigate how schools responded to the disability classification incentives produced by NCLB. I do this in a difference-in-difference framework in which incentives are determined by the interactions between schools' expectations about subgroup performance on the one hand and students’ performance and subgroup membership on the other. I find evidence that schools responded to accountability incentives to change the composition of the students with disabilities (SWD) subgroup to be higher-performing. Schools also used special education placement to target services and supports to students who were close to the passing threshold in reading, but not in math. I then use variation in incentives across schools and students as instruments to examine the effect of special education placement on achievement. For students whose special education placement was affected by incentives to select the SWD group to be  relatively high-performing in math, special education decreased math scores. This suggests that special education decreases the achievement of some students.

Event Type

Class/ Workshop


Economics, Policy Analysis and Management


pam, EconLabor, economics, EconSeminar, EconPAM



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Heather LaCombe

Contact Phone



Sarah Prenovitz

Speaker Affiliation

Cornell University

Open To

Cornell Economics Community (List Serve Members)

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