A recent working paper from public policy researchers at Duke University examines one potential unintended consequence of the school accountability era: Is it possible that accountability testing, which under No Child Left Behind begins in the third grade, has given elementary school administrators an incentive to cluster their strongest teachers in third, fourth and fifth grade classrooms, thus depriving younger students of more effective teachers?
According to the study, by Sarah C. Fuller and Helen F. Ladd, this may be the case. In North Carolina between the years of 1995 and 2009, teachers who were average or less effective at improving test scores were more likely than their peers to be reassigned from 3rd-5th grade classrooms to kindergarten, first grade and second grade. A teacher one standard deviation above the mean for student test scores in reading was 74.5 percent as likely as an average teacher to move from teaching 3rd-5th grade to teaching earlier grades. Teachers with above-average math scores were 70.1 percent as likely as an average teacher to move down into the early grades.