We use North Carolina data to explore whether the quality of teachers in the lower elementary grades (K–2) falls short of teacher quality in the upper grades (3–5) and to examine the hypothesis that school accountability pressures contribute to such quality shortfalls. Our concern with the early grades arises from recent studies highlighting how children's experiences in those years have lasting effects on their later outcomes. Using two credentials-based measures of teacher quality, we document within-school quality shortfalls in the lower grades, and show that the shortfalls increased with the introduction of No Child Left Behind. Consistent with that pattern, we find that schools responded to accountability pressures by moving their weaker teachers down to the lower grades and stronger teachers up to the higher grades. These findings support the view that accountability pressure induces schools to pursue actions that work to the disadvantage of children in the lower grades.

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