Kentucky’s system of high-stakes accountability raises the question: Should teachers and school administrators be held accountable for student test results if the scores are influenced by external factors over which these educators have no control? The goal of the present study is to investigate if such external factors, or “contextual effects,” bias the accountability index scores. The issue is important because school districts, schools, and educators should be assessed in a fair manner. The focus of the study is on the Kentucky school district accountability index scores for the 1992-94 and 1994-96 biennia. District scores, rather than school scores, were chosen as the focus because more suitable measures of contextual effects are available for school districts than for schools. Three contextual effects are considered: (1) median household income in the district, (2) teen birth rate, and (3) rural-metropolitan differences among districts.
Occasional Research Paper, no. 1, April 1998.