Testing, crime and punishment

David N. Figlio*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


The recent passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 solidified a national trend toward increased student testing for the purpose of evaluating public schools. This new environment for schools provides strong incentives for schools to alter the ways in which they deliver educational services. This paper investigates whether schools may employ discipline for misbehavior as a tool to bolster aggregate test performance. To do so, this paper utilizes an extraordinary data set constructed from the school district administrative records of a subset of the school districts in Florida during the 4 years surrounding the introduction of a high-stakes testing regime. It compares the suspensions of students involved in each of the 41,803 incidents in which two students were suspended and where prior test scores for both students are observed. While schools always tend to assign harsher punishments to low-performing students than to high-performing students throughout the year, this gap grows substantially during the testing window. Moreover, this testing window-related gap is only observed for students in testing grades. In summary, schools apparently act on the incentive to re-shape the testing pool through selective discipline in response to accountability pressures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-851
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Issue number4-5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Discipline
  • Education policy
  • School accountability
  • Testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Finance
  • Economics and Econometrics


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