School & District Management

‘Value Added’ Researchers Shift To Private-Sector Firm

By Jeff Archer — July 12, 2000 2 min read

William L. Sanders, whose research on the “value added” effects of teachers and schools has made him a sought-after expert among education leaders and policymakers nationwide, has moved to the for-profit world.

The 58-year-old statistician retired last month from the University of Tennessee, where he directed the Value-Added Research and Assessment Center. The center crunched the numbers for the Volunteer State’s school accountability system based on students’ test-score gains.

Mr. Sanders and four colleagues now work for SAS inSchool, part of the Cary, N.C.-based SAS Institute software company. The company’s education division designs computer-based instructional units for secondary schools.

With the resources of one of the country’s largest privately owned software company behind him, Mr. Sanders plans to expand his work helping school systems around the country evaluate their schools and teachers. He also hopes to help design software based on SAS inSchool’s curricular products that would let teachers measure the effectiveness of their own instruction throughout the school year.

“There are some 20 states that have one or more schools piloting his approach, and he was doing well to keep his head above water,” said John Boling, who heads up SAS inSchool. “He knew at one time he would need to align himself with a big buddy.”

A Valued Technique

Having spent most of his career carrying out statistical research in the field of agriculture, Mr. Sanders began devising new ways to measure educational effectiveness in the 1980s. His methods—which involve tracking the progress of individual students on state tests over time—became the centerpiece of Tennessee’s statewide system for evaluating schools and teachers in 1992. (“Putting ‘Value Added’ Data to Good Use,” May 5, 1999.)

Amid a nationwide push for greater school accountability, the value-added approach began drawing attention from outside the state, and Mr. Sanders eventually formed a small separate group at the university—Educational Value Added Assessment Services—to handle the growing number of schools and systems seeking his advice and analysis.

“In my wildest dreams, I could have never envisioned all of the requests for services that were coming our way without any advertisement,” Mr. Sanders said. “With my guys working evenings and weekends, it quickly outgrew a part-time approach.”

The move to SAS was accomplished by the company’s purchase of the services unit, which now is located within SAS inSchool. Neither company officials nor Mr. Sanders would divulge the price.

Mr. Sanders added that his group has contracted with the state of Tennessee to continue to do the analysis, for its school accountability program. As a result, state education officials said his departure would not disrupt their efforts.

A version of this article appeared in the July 12, 2000 edition of Education Week as ‘Value Added’ Researchers Shift To Private-Sector Firm

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