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Value-Added Indicators: A Powerful Tool for Evaluating Science and Mathematics Programs and Policies


This paper on value added indicators may lead to a more nuanced debate when considering the positive and negative consequences of statewide accountability systems.

"Educational outcome indicators frequently are used to measure the performance of schools, programs, and policies. Reliance on such indicators is largely the result of a growing demand to hold these entities accountable for their performance, defined in terms of outcomes, such as standardized test scores in mathematics, science and reading, rather than inputs, such as teacher qualifications, class size, or the quality of lab facilities. This Brief discusses the weaknesses of the most commonly used educational outcome indicators-average and median test scores and proficiency-level indicators-and the advantages of value-added indicators. Several major conclusions emerge from the analysis. First, the most common educational indicators are highly flawed as measures of school and program performance, even if they are derived from highly valid assessments. Second, the typical indicators used to assess school and program performance provide institutions with the perverse incentive to "cream," that is, to raise measured performance by educating only those students who tend to have high test scores. Third, typical performance indicators tend to be biased against schools and programs that disproportionately serve academically disadvantaged students."