Friday, May 7, 2010

Value-Added Systems and Accountability

Those who are following news articles about Race to the Top or other education communications know there is a great deal of debate about holding teachers and principals accountable for student test scores. I have gone on record that I could never support a teacher or principal evaluation system that was solely based on the results of student test scores on a one-day, one-time test.

I recently reviewed an excellent report from the National Academy of Science workshop called “Getting Value Out of Value Added.” I encourage you to read the full report at (The report is available as a free download.)

This report focuses on the value-added concept, but also provides an excellent overview of the current state of testing and accountability in the assessment world. There are several models of assessment:

Status Model – this model is a snapshot at a certain point in time and answers questions such as “What percentage of students are meeting state proficiency standards?”
Cohort-to-Cohort Model – this model compares one group of students against another group of students. “How are 4th graders doing this year as compared to 4th graders last year?”
Growth Model – this model usually shows growth from year to year for individual students, classrooms and schools. There is usually a developmental growth scale that is the basis for measuring growth. I am very familiar with this model, since it was utilized in North Carolina and South Carolina, where I served as superintendent and testing coordinator.
Value-Added Model – Tennessee probably has the best example of a value-added model. This model attempts to answer the questions around how much value a particular teacher, school or program added to a student’s or group of students’ performance.

There are MANY yet unanswered issues and problems with all of the models. The report cited several concerns with value-added models.

Some research findings focused, for example, on problems with the tests that provide the raw data for value-added analyses; others were concerned with technical aspects of different value-added approaches, especially with sources of bias and imprecision; and still others focused on issues of transparency and public understanding of the results. Some of the concerns, such as the fact that tests are incomplete measures of student achievement, are general problems that arise. The major concern with value-added models is the inability of principals and schools to randomly assign students to teachers.

In Kentucky, our approach to the development teacher and principal effectiveness measures will be led by groups of practitioners and other stakeholders. As commissioner, I am appointing a steering committee for the teacher and principal effectiveness work. These groups will begin work very soon to manage the pilot process that we have been developing this year through support from the Wallace Foundation. Eventually, we hope to work closely with the General Assembly to make any necessary statutory changes and with the Education Professional Standards Board and Kentucky Board of Education to make appropriate regulatory changes. Our intent is to develop a statewide system of evaluation that is a valid, fair and reliable measure of teacher and principal effectiveness. We also hope to continue to work with our partners to develop superintendent and school board effectiveness measures.

While Race to the Top is currently driving this conversation, we also have State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, Title I, Title II, School Improvement Grants and other competitive programs pushing this conversation. We are NOT rushing into methods that could turn out to be unfair and not valid measures of effectiveness. We ARE heavily involving stakeholders in the development of the process, and we hope that Race to the Top will provide the funding to develop an outstanding effectiveness process that would lead to more children proficient and prepared for success.

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