Do competition and accountability improve quality of education? : the Chilean case from 2002 to 2013
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This dissertation studies the macro-level impact of market-oriented reforms in education. Specifically, it evaluates the intended and unintended consequences of the introduction of competition and the high-stakes accountability program in Chile. Competition and high-stakes accountability systems in education are neoliberal, market-oriented policies implemented by lawmakers with the stated goal of improving the quality of education. Performance on standardized tests is a key marker of quality in this system—schools are ranked based on student scores. Funding opportunities are also attached to performance. Thus, advocates argue that if schools compete with each other and parents have the freedom and information to choose their children’s schools, the education system would react to these pressures and lead schools with lower performance on standardized tests to eventually close due to low enrollment. Therefore, the overall quality of education would improve. Influenced by economist Milton Friedman and under the military regimen of August Pinochet, Chile implemented a universal education voucher program in 1981. In 2015, more than half of Chilean students in primary and secondary education are enrolled in private-voucher schools. Furthermore, and as part of its neoliberal agenda, the Chilean government also implemented a high-stakes accountability program as way to make teachers and school administrators responsible for student performance on standardized test. I use a mixed methods research approach to explore the intended and unintended consequences of the introduction of competition and the high-stakes accountability system. The results show competition has had a negative impact on quality of education at the national level, while families and students from Santiago, the capital, have benefited from competition. Furthermore, in those schools that participate in the high-stakes accountability system, contrary to the expected outcome, teachers are not increasing their use of academic strategies, such as spending more time with students, finding new learning methods, or giving students more homework or assignments in order to improve their performance on standardized tests. Instead, teachers and schools are increasingly using non-academic strategies, such as excluding low-performing students from the test-taking pool, as a way to improve scores.
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