NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 23, 2008

Value-Added Assessment is an alternative methodology that evaluates educational progress in public schools based on the growth of each student's knowledge base, rather than the attainment of particular test scores.  Although more states are collecting the statistics necessary for VAA, so far there is little evidence its use has improved academic achievement, say D. Sean Shurtleff, a policy analyst, and Jesus Loredo, a junior fellow, both with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Theodore Hershberg of the University of Pennsylvania believes that VAA requires complementary policies to improve academic achievement: accountability, training teachers to use VAA and merit pay.  Evidence from other researchers supports the conclusion that VAA can be effective if implemented in conjunction with other policies.

Like other states, Florida gives schools a grade based on test performance and dropout rates:

  • In a December 2007 National Bureau of Economic Research study, Cecilia E. Rouse and colleagues found that low-performing schools in Florida raised student test scores after the state threatened to reduce local school funding and to give parents a choice of other schools.
  • This shows that holding schools accountable for performance can yield positive results.
  • Nationally, NCLB has attempted to increase accountability by monitoring pass-fail test scores by school and socioeconomic group; but these scores don't evaluate specific students or teachers.
  • States can improve accountability by using VAA to assess the progress of individual students, teachers and schools.

States must train teachers and administrators on how to use VAA.  A 2007 Rand Corporation study observed that Pennsylvania's VAA pilot program did not increase achievement at pilot schools compared to nonpilot schools; but this effect was due more to the pilot schools' failure to use VAA statistics effectively than any inherent flaw in VAA itself.

Teacher compensation must be tied to performance or merit.  A 2004 study of a four-year pilot program in Denver, Colo., by the Community Training and Assistance Center, found that students' test scores increased when teachers met two or more district-approved teaching objectives and were compensated for those achievements.

Source: D. Sean Shurtleff and Jesus Loredo, "Beyond No Child Left Behind: Value-Added Assessment of Student Progress," National Center for Policy Analysis, Brief Analysis No. 636, October 23, 2008.

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