During the past decade, states have worked to implement longitudinal education data systems that can track achievement of individual students over time. States use these data for federal, state and local accountability for student achievement. More recently, states have begun to link teachers and students, thereby attributing student gains to particular teachers. As states move forward to use these data with higher stakes for rating schools, students, educators and preparation programs, state legislators will want to ensure that their state education data system can accurately capture data and measure this information.
States collect data for use in several different models, depending on their need for the data. States may adopt a value-added model, which matches longitudinal student data with teachers of record to attempt to determine how much a teacher affects populations of students. Value-added models are most often used to measure student academic growth for a particular district, school or teacher. Tennessee’s Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS) is perhaps the best-known value-added model.
States that use the SAS Institute Inc. Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) can, for example, use the resulting data to influence staffing and instructional decisions from the state policy level to the individual school. States could use this system to determine the overall effects of certain policies on student achievement, and districts could use the system to attempt to determine the effectiveness of individual teachers. Teachers and principals could use this system to help make differentiated instruction and professional development decisions. Parents and students could view individualized data to better understand a student’s growth trajectories and achievement projections to future academic benchmarks, including the SAT and ACT.
Some states use a growth model, which measures and charts individual student progress. Colorado is perhaps best-known for its Growth Model and SchoolView program for analysis. Matching student growth data with the teacher of record can be a powerful tool for policymakers and stakeholders. State policymakers, for example, can determine the overall achievement of students in the state and develop and amend policies to achieve higher growth. Districts can use the system to determine how well its students are achieving using certain curriculum. Teachers and principals can determine what subjects to emphasize in certain grades for school improvement plans. Again, similar to EVAAS, parents and students can view individual data to better understand growth trajectory.
For more information on this topic, visit NCSL’s Legislator’s Guide to Educator Effectiveness Policies.
Questions for Legislators to Ask About Using Data to Improve Teacher Effectiveness
As legislators consider policies to use data to determine educator effectiveness, they may want to seek answers to the following questions to gain a deeper understanding of state policies and practices.
- Does your state have a longitudinal data system? Do you know how it is used? What are legislative expectations? Do the system and its implementation meet those expectations? How does the legislature use that data to formulate policy?
- Does your state match student and teacher data?
- How does your state rank in the Data Quality Campaign Essential Elements and the State Actions? What policies are missing in your state?
- How does your state ensure data accuracy?
- Are your state department of education assessment and data experts confident that your state data system will be able to meet your needs as states make the transition to new standards and assessments?
- Does your state use a value-added or growth model to interpret and relay information about student growth and educator effectiveness? How reliable are the resulting estimates of projected growth and/or educator effectiveness?
- Is the value-added or student-growth measure itself based on all the student’s previous performance data on an assessment instrument? Is it sophisticated and robust enough to include students with missing data?
- Is your model sophisticated enough to accommodate student/teacher mobility or shared instructional practices?
- Does your state use other measures to interpret and relay information about student growth and educator effectiveness?
- How do your state and districts interpret and relay data to principals and teachers about student achievement? How are your principals and teachers trained to interpret this data and make staffing and instructional decisions based upon it?
- How does your state ensure student and educator privacy in terms of data access?
State Policy Options to Use Data to Improve Teacher Effectiveness
The following policy options are among those states are considering for using data to measure educator effectiveness.
- Implement and fund a longitudinal data system that contains all the elements recommended by the Data Quality Campaign. Ensure that your state is capable of matching student and teacher data and that the data can be verified by principals and teachers.
- Ensure that your data system can meet your policy needs.
- Take the state actions advised by the Data Quality Campaign to ensure that your data system is appropriately and best used to meet your policy needs.
- Require teachers and principals to be trained in the use of data to adjust instructional practice and inform curricular decisions.
- After meeting with your state data experts, make any necessary adjustments to your state policy if your system will not produce reliable data on teacher and student performance.
- Enact policies to ensure that your state data system is capable of meeting state needs as your state makes the transition to new standards and assessments.
- Ensure that student and educator privacy is protected.