School & District Management

‘Value Added’ Models for Gauging Gains Called Promising

By Lynn Olson — October 25, 2005 3 min read

“Value added” models that track the test-score gains of individual students over time hold great promise but should not yet be used as the main basis for rewarding or punishing teachers, according to two reports released this month.

The reports, by a study group of the National Association of State Boards of Education and by Henry I. Braun, a researcher at the Educational Testing Service, describe such models as a welcome antidote to judging teachers and schools based solely on whether their students have exceeded some absolute level of performance.

Value-added models “move the discussion about teacher quality to where it belongs: centered on increasing student learning as the primary goal of teaching,” writes Mr. Braun in “Using Student Progress to Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models.”

“Using Student Progress to Evaluate Teachers: A Primer on Value-Added Models” is posted by Educational Testing Service.

The executive summary of “Evaluating Value-Added: Findings and Recommendations From the NASBE Study Group on Value-Added Assessments” is available from the National Association of State Boards of Education.

But he cautions that practical and technical problems remain. In particular, while studies suggest a relationship between teacher quality and gains in student learning, that suggestion is far from proving that an individual teacher has caused a student to make progress or not.

“Such interpretations are most credible when students are randomly sorted into classes, and teachers are randomly assigned to those classes,” Mr. Braun says in the study from the Princeton, N.J.-based test-maker. “In reality, the classroom placement of students and teachers is far from random.”

Student learning also can be influenced by a variety of factors beyond a teacher’s control, he continues, such as the physical condition and resources of the school, which are hard to account for in the statistical models available.

Caution Urged

While value-added models might play some role in teacher evaluation, agrees NASBE’s study group on value-added assessment, they should be used with caution.

“We believe that educators should recognize that value-added assessment is a ‘tool,’ ” says the report from the Alexandria, Va.-based organization, “but it is not ‘total’—and indeed that the data can only with certainty identify about the top 10 percent and bottom 10 percent of teachers.”

Both reports suggest that value-added methods hold great potential for making lower-stakes decisions about teachers, such as identifying those who need extra training or support.

Such models also introduce “the promise of a much-needed quantitative component in teacher evaluation,” argues Mr. Braun, but should always be combined with other sources of information, such as observations of classroom performance.

The NASBE study group also was enthusiastic about the use of value-added measures as a “data-driven component” of efforts to improve instruction at the classroom, school, and district levels.

“Indeed, many believe that this is the most significant advantage of value-added models,” the report says.

Many states are exploring ways to add a “growth” or value-added measure to calculate whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The NASBE study group urges the U.S. Department of Education to allow for the use of such growth indicators as a component of AYP calculations.

Adding evidence of students’ academic growth is needed “not only out of fairness,” the study group says, but also because when combined with measures of absolute achievement, the method also provides “the most accurate picture of the effectiveness of schools.”

“In addition,” it says, “failure to use growth as one indicator of success could end up making it even more difficult to retain effective teachers in disadvantaged schools.”

That’s because schools whose students start far below the proficient level on state tests may make great progress over the course of a year and yet still not meet state targets for achievement.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the October 26, 2005 edition of Education Week as ‘Value Added’ Models for Gauging Gains Called Promising


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management L.A. Unified to Require Testing of Students, Staff Regardless of Vaccination Status
The policy change in the nation's second-largest school district comes amid rising coronavirus cases, largely blamed on the Delta variant.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
4 min read
L.A. schools interim Sup Megan K. Reilly visits Fairfax High School's "Field Day" event to launch the Ready Set volunteer recruitment campaign to highlight the nationwide need for mentors and tutors, to prepare the country's public education students for the upcoming school year. The event coincides with National Summer Learning Week, where U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is highlighting the importance of re-engaging students and building excitement around returning to in-person learning this fall. high school, with interim LAUSD superintendent and others. Fairfax High School on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
In this July 14, 2021, photo, Los Angeles Unified School District interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly speaks at an event at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Reilly announced a new district policy Thursday requiring all students and employees of the Los Angeles school district to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccination status.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via TNS
School & District Management Why School Boards Are Now Hot Spots for Nasty Politics
Nationalized politics, shifts in local news coverage, and the rise of social media are turning school board meetings into slug fests.
11 min read
Collage of people yelling, praying, and masked in a board room.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management Opinion The Six Leadership Lessons I Learned From the Pandemic
These guiding principles can help leaders prepare for another challenging year—and any future crises to come.
David Vroonland
3 min read
A hand about to touch a phone.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images