Measuring Student Growth in Tennessee: Understanding TVAAS - Page 2

OCTOBER 2014 TAKING NOTE added measures, when employed in combination with other effective evaluation tools, offer schools the opportunity to assess and improve student access to high-quality teaching, maximizing students’ potential for growth throughout their educational career.8 HISTORY OF TVAAS In Tennessee, the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) was developed in an attempt to measure the impact teachers have on students’ academic growth. TVAAS was created on the foundational belief that “society has a right to expect that schools will provide students with the opportunity for academic gain regardless of the level at which the students enter the educational venue.”9 In other words, those schools or teachers labeled as most effective by a TVAAS measure should be those PAGE 2 who provide high-quality educational opportunities for all students.10 In the late 1980s, Dr. William L. Sanders and Dr. Robert A. McClean of the University of Tennessee used longitudinal data to measure the impact different teachers had on student outcomes, laying the foundation for the statistical model employed in TVAAS. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Tennessee passed several pieces of legislation that emphasized the importance of statewide assessment and accountability systems on the path toward Tennessee’s education improvement goals.11 TVAAS was one recognized measure that could be used to evaluate Tennessee’s progress toward accomplishing its educational goals. This research and legislation laid the foundation for the use of TVAAS in Tennessee’s education system today. Table 1 outlines the history of TVAAS in Tennessee: TAKING NOTE OCTOBER 2014 VALUE OF TVAAS MEASURES Accurate TVAAS data has the potential to help stakeholders at all levels of the education system promote high-quality teaching and contribute to PAGE 3 improved achievement for all students. Tables 2-4 outline how teachers, principals, district leaders, and state policymakers can use TVAAS data to improve student achievement in Tennessee. How does TVAAS help teachers? Student Support TVAAS data have the potential to facilitate meaningful conversations between teachers and students about a student’s strengths and to set goals for students’ academic growth during the school year. TVAAS data provide teachers with information that can help them identify students in need of early intervention and to group students based on their unique needs. These practices help teachers differentiate their instruction for different groups of students, improving students’ potential for growth. Instructional Improvement TVAAS data allow teachers to reflect on their instruction, illuminating instructional strengths as well as opportunities for growth. This kind of data-driven self-reflection allows teachers to identify strengths and weaknesses in certain subject areas and with certain groups of students.19 1992 Education Improvement Act The Education Improvement Act introduced TVAAS in 1992, requiring the state to monitor student gains.12 13 1993-2010 TVAAS Reports 2010 First to the Top Act Principals and teachers received TVAAS reports annually, but these reports were only informational. There was no standardized method for discussing or utilizing these results.14 TVAAS data was incorporated into Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system. This required 35% of a teacher’s summative evaluation to come from TVAAS scores.15 16 2013 Teacher and Principal Evaluation Policy Teachers were given the option of having TVAAS account for an additional 15% of their summative evaluation scores if they scored a 3, 4, or 5 on TVAAS.17 Table 1 TVAAS uses data from Tennessee’s achievement tests to calculate yearly growth for all students in the state. To calculate yearly growth for students, TVAAS looks at a student’s past testing data and predicts his or her growth based on the average growth of students statewide with similar initial levels of achievement. This component of the TVAAS model is meant to ensure that a students’ initial achievement level will not affect the accuracy of the measure.18 While other growth models explicitly adjust for students’ background characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and poverty status, TVAAS uses students’ prior achievement levels to account for these factors. A TVAAS score for a teacher is determined by looking at the amount of growth above, below, or just at expectations that each of the teacher’s students make in a given school year. Each student’s growth is compared to the growth they were predicted to make during that school year. 1207 18th Avenue South, Suite 326, Nashville, TN 37212 — tel 615.727.1545 — fax 615.727.1569 — www.tnscore.org Teacher Collaboration TVAAS data can also set the stage for more directed and effective collaboration between teachers. This data can help principals identify highly effective teachers who can serve as instructional leaders and mentors for newer teachers or teachers struggling with specific areas of instruction.20 Table 2 TVAAS Shifts the Conversation from Proficiency to Growth: Norman Smith Elementary Norman Smith Elementary, a school serving over 600 students in grades prekindergarten to five in Middle Tennessee, has achieved high levels of growth over the last three years. If you ask school leaders at Norman Smith what makes them so successful, one of the things they point to is building the confidence of their students. Former principal Beth Unfried explains, “We have to provide opportunities for students to have success in school. Once they experience success, they want it even more.”21 One of the things Norman Smith staff point to as a key to helping all students experience success is their continued focus on growth. Using TVAAS and other growth data, teachers at Norman Smith are able to set overall growth targets for students and incremental milestones along the way that help students build self-confidence and perseverance. Unfried cites TVAAS and other growth data as a game changer for students from low-income backgrounds. She emphasizes, “If students are never celebrated for their growth, then they feel defeated. It’s not always about students making 100 percent on the test. For some students, going from a 20 percent to a 60 percent is just as important.”22 1207 18th Avenue South, Suite 326, Nashville, TN 37212 — tel 615.727.1545 — fax 615.727.1569 — www.tnscore.org