Value added assessment (VAA) is a comprehensive, statistical process used by school districts to determine how each school professional contributes to the academic progress of students and to assess the quality of each staff member. Typically, the process relies heavily on high-stakes testing scores for a large portion of the VAA. Research underway is evaluating the inclusion of other factors such as student feedback, observations, portfolio assessments, and other classroom performance measures.
Educational policy-makers have been focusing on establishing VAAs for many years. States applying for Race to the Top grants from the U.S. Department of Education, for example, were encouraged to include VAA in their applications. Many other states are passing legislation requiring that some form of VAA be used to identify quality teachers. VAA is used to remove, retrain, or transfer professionals, as well as to provide incentives and compensation, in accordance with state or district policy.
The U.S. Department of Education requires that measures for determining teachers' contributions to student learning be rigorous, between two specific points in time, and comparable across classrooms. Much of the work on VAA to date has been directed toward evaluating general education classroom teachers. However, it is apparent that in the near future, other school staff also will be evaluated using a VAA system. According to the National Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality, 69% of the teaching staff instruct in subjects or areas that cannot be tested with standardized tests. Measuring the contributions of this group of educational professionals presents a significant challenge.
Various organizations have been involved in developing and analyzing new approaches to measuring effective teaching. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has launched the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) to test new approaches to identifying effective teaching as a means of building fair and reliable systems for teacher observation and feedback.
The MET project is based on three premises: teacher evaluations should include his or her students' achievement gains, any additional components of the evaluation should be demonstrably related to a student's achievement gains, and the measure should include feedback on specific aspects of a teacher's practice to support teacher growth and development.
MET reports that "two types of evidence—student achievement gains and student feedback—do seem to point in the same direction, with teachers performing better on one measure tending to perform better on the other measure."
The National Comprehensive Center on Teacher Quality also is investigating the issue of VAA, and "was created to serve as the premier national resource to which the regional comprehensive centers, states, and other education stakeholders turn for strengthening the quality of teaching—especially in high-poverty, low-performing, and hard-to-staff schools—and for finding guidance in addressing specific needs, thereby ensuring highly qualified teachers are serving students with special needs."
ASHA is developing resources for school-based speech-language pathologists to use in working with their state or district to design a VAA system for SLPs. School-based clinicians need to be engaged in the process of developing a system to judge the quality and contributions of SLPs rather than have a system imposed upon them. SLPs are valuable resources for the school community and have a direct link to student achievement. The challenge is to identify a reliable, reasonable, and fair measure that clearly demonstrates this contribution.
If you have an interest in this topic you are encouraged to learn what is happening in your state. Ask about the type of VAA system in use or under development. Find out who is in charge of the project, and learn how you can become involved in advocating for an appropriate VAA for SLPs.