opinion: Adjusting academic achievement using socio-economic factors not useful to students
I read with great interest the story featuring Ron French’s article “Measuring Student Achievement” in the Sunday, Jan. 13, issue of Ann Arbor.Com. Mr. French — and apparently a lot of others — are confusing Value-Added-Measurement (VAM) with the fairly long-standing practice of adjusting pupils’ academic achievement scores by factors such as the relative socio-economic status, the geographic location, and the racial-ethnic makeup of groups of pupils.
Joseph Tobianski | AnnArbor.com
While such adjustments often can produce data that are quite informative and useful in fashioning policies and strategies for improving instruction and learning, they are not Value-Added-Measurement.
Value-added measures, as normally defined, are measures that estimate the contributions made to student test scores by educators, and principally by classroom teachers. They are designed to calculate the annual academic growth of individual students or groups of students, measuring what portion of a year’s academic growth those students are achieving for each year of instruction.
In effect, properly designed VAM would report on the extent to which a school (or district) is “adding academic value” each year for each student going through the system.
The Michigan Department of Education, currently working with other states in a consortium effort, intends to utilize value-added measures in future reporting of state assessment results — but has not yet done that.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to ensure — and be able to report — that each child and young person in our schools is on the road to achieving proficiency in his or her academic subjects. Adjusting academic achievement scores by socio-economic factors — as reported by Mr. French, while useful in identifying student needs and fashioning improvement strategies to meet those needs, is saying little or nothing about the academic growth of those students.
C. Philip Kearney
Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan