WPRI: Publish Value-Added Scores Ahead of Full Deployment

In advance of the adoption of new testing standards in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute is asking that new value-added assessment information be added to the results obtained by the current formula in the next release of the state and district education performance reports. Originally, the value-added system was scheduled to be deployed next year, at the same time as the new testing standards go into effect. However, a recent paper by the National Assessment Governing Board showed that the difference between the results obtained by using the existing evaluation method and the new value-added evaluation method differ so greatly that educators will need advanced notice in order to be ready to tackle the issues raised by the report.

“The new standards are likely to be a wake-up call for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers,” said George Lightbourn, president of WPRI.  “A year from now, everyone will be scrambling to figure out how to restore Wisconsin student performance to where they thought it was. Value-added analysis is a powerful tool – home-grown right here in Wisconsin – that is available right now but is underused.”

The difference is stark: while 83% of Wisconsin eight-graders were found proficient or above at the grade-level skills, the new system applied to the same data would show that only 35% of students merit the same rating. School districts already have access to the value-added metrics if they choose to request them, but so far only 10% of them have done so.

Only about a tenth of Wisconsin’s 426 school districts have chosen to receive readily available value-added analysis of student academic growth, according to the paper by WPRI Research Director Mike Ford and Sarah Archibald, who holds a doctorate in educational leadership and  policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The value-added score is used to compute how much the school is contributing to student results. To obtain it, researchers try to strip out all other factors, like student’s economic background and achievement prior to arriving in the particular classroom. The method is supposed to provide a fully objective evaluation of teacher skill and school performance.

The main motivation behind WPRI’s request to make publishing value-added results mandatory is the results of their recent poll that showed that residents of the state didn’t have a good grasp of how their school systems measured up against school systems around the country, in terms of quality. This misconception arises partially from the fact that the current assessment system has a much lower standard by which proficiency is determined than the systems used by other districts and states.

Wisconsin’s poor performance will soon be harder to ignore because the state is recalibrating the WKCE so that proficiency cut-offs are in sync with those set by the NAEP. In addition, the state is also developing new standardized assessments that will eventually replace the WKCE and make it easier to see how Wisconsin stacks up in comparison to other states.

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