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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
ISSN: 1448-0743
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Value-Added Measures for School Improvement

Sandra Mahar
Research Manager Education Policy and Research Division, Office for Policy, Research and Innovation, DEECD Victoria

This week Curriculum Leadership publishes an article provided by the Education Policy and Research Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD), Victoria. The article summarises a new DEECD report on the use of value-added measures in school education, featured in DEECD’s Research eLert Newsletter, Issue No 14.

A Department of Education & Early Childhood Development (DEECD) research report titled Value-Added Measures for School Improvement has recently been distributed to all Victorian schools. This report discusses the concept of ‘value added’ measures and shares recent international research on various models being adopted in countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

The term ‘value-added’ originated in the field of economics – often used to describe the additional value a business generates or contributes to a product or service. From an education perspective, ‘value-added’ is most commonly used to describe the additional value or contribution a school makes to the learning outcomes of students. Value-added measures seek to determine the extent of ‘learning gains’ by comparing test results in one year with those in subsequent years, thus providing valuable longitudinal data for schools and their communities. 

The report identifies the importance of such measures being adjusted to cancel out non-school influences such as a student’s background and prior attainments. By adjusting student scores for these external influences, value-added measures aim to provide a more accurate indication of the influence the school has had on their students.

Value-added measures are regarded as a useful tool for school improvement and can be used to inform and guide school policy and program development. However, the report points out that as a relative measure, value-added information is only effective when seen in combination with other factors, such as raw scores, teacher assessments and school internal and external evaluations.

Value-added models

The report briefly discusses international value-added models and the different methodologies being employed in these models. The United Kingdom’s ‘contextualised value-added model’ is described as being multi-levelled and able to account for each student’s prior achievement and background factors. In the United States value-added measures for school and teacher effectiveness have been introduced in several states and districts including Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. The Tennessee Value-added Assessment System (TVAAS) is the most commonly cited of the US models.

Potential applications of value-added measures

Four possible uses of value-added measures are identified in the report. Firstly, as a tool for school improvement, the report suggests that value-added measures can indicate how the school is performing in particular areas and with particular students. As a relative measure, the value-added information can compare the impact of a school relative to other schools.

Secondly, as a tool for accountability, the report draws on current international research that suggests that value-added measures could be used to enhance school improvement efforts. It also shares information from a Victorian primary school principal who suggests a two-phase accountability system that measures different kinds of progress.

Informing policy-making is the third area identified in the report where the value-added measures are used to provide information on the effectiveness of policy initiatives. Finally, as a tool for reporting to parents and the community, the report suggests that value-added measures may provide a more accurate impression of how well a school is improving the learning outcomes of its students.  

Areas for further work

In 2007 the DEECD undertook consultations with key stakeholders to explore the concept and issues related to value-added measures. Consideration of the strengths and limitations of value-added approaches were discussed and areas for further investigation were identified. The report suggests that the general consensus from these consultations was that value-added measures could support accountability and improvement. However, identifying the purpose and intended audience was seen as an essential first step in any further work.

Further work on value-added measures is continuing within the Victorian education system. The report suggests that the adoption of a model for Victoria would be gradual and require well thought-out development, careful implementation and ongoing adjustment.


Subject Headings

Educational planning
Educational evaluation