Measuring Student Growth in Tennessee: Understanding TVAAS - Page 6

TAKING NOTE OCTOBER 2014 levels.31 A recent statement by the American Statistical Association emphasizes that “value-added measures are only as good as the data fed into them.”32 Recent research on other states’ assessments calls into question whether current assessments accurately measure student learning.33 These analyses have found gaps in alignment between state standards and state assessments, both in terms of the content covered as well as in the depth and rigor of testing items.34 These analyses found that on average, state assessments cover around 19 percent of the standards’ content in English language arts and reading and 27 percent of the standards’ content in math.35 Additionally, these analyses found that 15 percent of items in math assessments and 26 percent of items in English language arts and reading are misaligned due to different levels of depth and rigor.36 If state assessments are not reflective of the state standards teachers are required to teach in their classrooms, value-added measures could be an inaccurate reflection of a teachers’ ability to effectively create academic growth for their students. While the quality of current state assessments indicates a cause for concern around the accuracy and utility of the TVAAS measure, it also presents an important opportunity to select a higher-quality, better aligned assessment to be implemented with Tennessee’s State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics. As Tennessee begins the assessment selection process, it should evaluate assessments for alignment to these standards both in terms of content and rigor. This shift to a new assessment provides the opportunity for improved accuracy in the TVAAS measure and, as a result, improved utility of the information it provides students, teachers, principals, and district and state leaders. A MULTIPLE MEASURES APPROACH: TVAAS AND TEACHER EVALUATION Prior to 2010, teacher evaluations in Tennessee relied only on information collected during formal and informal observations, which were not required for all teachers on an annual basis. From these observations, principals scored teachers on a rubric with general categories intended to indicate levels of teaching effectiveness. PAGE 6 While these classroom observations provided teachers with an opportunity to receive feedback, the quality of the rubrics used and the infrequency of observations limited their ability to truly inform teacher support and improvement practices. Additionally, prior to 2010, student growth and student achievement data were not included as components of the teacher evaluation. With Tennessee’s passage of the First to the Top Act in 2010, multiple measures of teaching effectiveness were incorporated into the Tennessee teacher evaluation. While TVAAS serves as a foundational component of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system, the evaluation incorporates additional measures of teaching effectiveness to improve the accuracy, reliability, and utility of the evaluation as a whole. Since 2010, new rubrics for classroom observations have been implemented that aim to provide teachers with more detailed and rigorous feedback on their practice. The teacher evaluation also requires teachers to be observed multiple times each year.37 While TVAAS provides important information about teaching effectiveness and insight into what kinds of students teachers are most effective at teaching, TVAAS provides teachers with limited information on what they can do to improve. By balancing the weight of different measures, the teacher evaluation aims to prevent teachers from focusing too narrowly on one aspect of practice. Additionally, providing teachers with feedback on different areas of practice increases the usefulness of the evaluation and provides more effective data that can better inform professional growth opportunities. For example, while value-added data allow teachers to identify strengths and opportunities for growth in certain subject areas or with certain groups of students, feedback from classroom observations allows teachers to identify strengths and opportunities for growth in classroom management, instructional practices, or lesson planning. When these measures are combined with additional measures of teaching effectiveness, teacher evaluations have the potential to provide more accurate, informative, and complete feedback to teachers. This information can inform the improvement and development of support systems for teachers and increase student access to high-quality teaching.38 1207 18th Avenue South, Suite 326, Nashville, TN 37212 — tel 615.727.1545 —