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Value-Added For Talent Managers: What is it?

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Denette Kolbe, Assistant Director of Schools in the Putnam County School System in Cookeville, Tennessee contributed to this post. Denette has been an educator for 19 years as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, principal, and Data & Accountability Supervisor at the district level. Denette is a value-added expert who has given numerous presentations on value-added to teachers, principals, and administrators across the state of Tennessee and nationally.


It's the beginning of another school year. As Mrs. Taylor welcomes her new fourth grade class of 24 students, she knows the differences among them are likely profound. Some will already be reading at a sixth grade level, while others won't know how to do simple addition.

Mrs. Taylor cannot control where her students are when they come to her, but she can impact the progress they make while they are in her classroom. It is also important to remember that educators add value in many ways, some of which can be measured and some of which cannot.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Many states and districts are exploring changes to their teacher and school leader evaluation systems, particularly the use of student growth data, including value-added analysis, to measure educator effectiveness. It is important for K-12 talent managers to have an understanding of value-added, student growth models, and how these measures are shaping educational-improvement efforts across the country.

What is Growth?
In a perfect world, students would start at the same place, progress at the same pace, and achievement test scores would be enough to show growth.

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In reality, students start at different places, progress at different rates, and we need more than scores on a single test to demonstrate growth.

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Growth, in its simplest form, is a comparison of the test results of a student or group of students between two points in time in which a positive difference would imply growth. By measuring both achievement and growth, teachers, administrators, and parents have a clearer and more complete picture of student performance and the effectiveness of academic programs.

Growth measures come in various forms that differ in approach and design. There is a spectrum of models that measure student growth, from simple comparisons of student achievement to descriptive analyses to complex statistical models that estimate or make inferences about educator effectiveness.

What is Value-Added?
Value-added measures estimate the influence that districts, schools, and individual educators have on the academic growth rates of students. Teachers and school leaders can use this information to measure the impact of their curriculum, instruction, and other programs on student progress from year to year.

Value-added analysis, when combined with other measures, can be a valuable tool for teachers and leaders to identify areas for improvement and accelerate student learning. Value-added also allows for collaboration and conversations around support for struggling teachers.

What are the different types of growth models?
Simple growth models describe the academic growth of a group of students between two points in time without directly making assumptions about the influence of schools or educators on that growth. This is accomplished by comparing students' achievement, in a given subject, to their achievement the prior year by using scale scores or Normal Curve Equivalence (NCE). These models typically use limited student test data in the analysis and do not attempt to control for other factors (e.g., measurement error, student demographics, or other attributes). Simple growth models are fairly easy for educators to understand and often can be run internally by state or local experts.

Value-added models are, by nature, more complex than simple growth models and rarely can be run internally without a statistician or economist on staff. Not all value-added models are the same because they often are designed to analyze a specific part of the educational system, such as pre-service programs, school or district factors, or teacher or classroom factors. These models employ various statistical approaches and use differing amounts or types of data in the analysis.

It is (extremely) important to remember that while value-added reports offer critical information about the effectiveness of current programs, they should not be view as the sole metric of effectiveness nor should one year of value-added information alone be seen as conclusive.

In future posts, we will continue to cover several topics specific to value-added, including:
• How does value-added differ from achievement?
• What are the potential benefits of value-added?
• What are the potential pitfalls of value-added?
• How can value-added data be used for improvement?
• Value-added and non-tested teachers

If you are looking for more detailed information about value-added, please post your questions in the comments section below.


To learn more about Putnam County School Systems you can visit their website or follow the district on Twitter: @PCSSTN. For more information on human capital and continuous improvement in education you can follow Emily on twitter: @EmilyDouglasHC.

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