NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Assessing Value-added Assessment

April 11, 2002

Many school districts are abandoning "criterion-referenced" assessment tests in favor of value-added assessments. Instead of comparing a student with others as norm-referenced tests do, or solely against an established standard, value-added assessment measures how far the student has progressed at the end of the school year compared to the start of the school year.

Essentially, value-added assessment is like a pre-and-post-test given to students to determine what they have learned during a particular course of study. Unlike those tests, however, value-added assessment seeks results that can be compared across classrooms and years.

  • The most widespread use of value-added assessment has been in Tennessee, where reports on school districts and individual schools -- without violating the privacy of particular students -- have been made available to the general public since 1992.
  • While Tennessee is the only state to make broad use of value-added assessment, the statistical model has been used by more than 80 school districts around the nation.
  • Colorado's Pueblo School District 60 has made use of value-added assessment for five years. They have used a norm-referenced test, but are in the process of incorporating data from the Colorado criterion-referenced assessment.

Tennessee assessments of individual teachers are made available only to the teachers and their administrator. Although some teachers ignore the data, others have found it useful for improving instruction. For example, Marsha Denton, a middle school social studies teacher, discovered that her seventh grade students were learning well, but her eighth grade students weren't showing as much progress. The feedback provided by value-added assessment allowed her to evaluate her teaching methods and modify her teaching style for the older students. Her eight-graders' scores later increased.

Source: Karen Helland, "Value-Added Assessment," In Brief, , Volume 11, Number 4, December 2001, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, P.O. Box 552, Olympia, Wash. 98507, (360) 956-3482.


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