Tenn. ‘Value Added’ System Survives Legislative Attack

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The Tennessee legislature has passed a bill to continue the state’s widely recognized "value added" assessment system.

Enacted in the early 1990s, the system measures the academic growth that students make from the beginning to the end of the school year, based on standardized tests. Previous legislation would have done away with the system, in part because of questions about its reliability. ("Tennessee Reconsiders Value-Added Assessment System," March 3, 2004.)

The measure awaiting Gov. Phil Bredesen’s signature late last week, Senate Bill 3395 and House Bill 3511, would commit the state to a two-dimensional accountability system.

First, public schools and districts would have to make "adequate yearly progress," as required under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In addition, they would have to meet "academic growth" targets in each tested subject and grade, with growth determined by the value-added assessment system.

Switch to New Tests

But instead of basing expected growth on norm-referenced tests, as was true in the past, the bill would base growth targets on Tennessee’s new criterion-referenced examinations, with the specific performance goals set by the commissioner of education and approved by the state board of education.

The law would also reduce the number of test items that must be new each year from 100 percent to 70 percent.

"It really ended up being a [Bredesen] administration bill," said Bruce Opie, the legislative liaison for the state education department. "There was a bill that would have wiped out value-added altogether. We knew we needed to change some things, but not throw it out completely."

"I think it gives the commissioner and the state board a little bit more flexibility in adjusting the system based on the performance on the criterion-referenced tests," he added. Such tests assess students against specific academic standards, not against the performance of a sample of other students, as norm-referenced tests do.

William L. Sanders, the system’s creator, said last week that he was "extremely pleased" with the outcome.

"This has essentially reaffirmed that the state of Tennessee is committed to value-added assessment," said Mr. Sanders, who now works for SAS inSchool, part of the Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute Software Co.

Vol. 23, Issue 39, Page 22

Published in Print: June 9, 2004, as Tenn. ‘Value Added’ System Survives Legislative Attack
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