University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Take a “Quick Look” Your School’s Value-Added using the ARC

In The View from the OEP on January 27, 2012 at 10:53 am

We at the OEP have been talking a great deal about data recently, particularly in the wake of the Arkansas Department of Education releasing the status rankings (view the list here)  for schools across the state.  Moreover, the January 1 release in the state’s largest newspaper created quite a buzz listing our database of every school and its overall year-end score on the nationally norm-referenced Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

However, the discussion of point-in-time scores should not distract us from the very important task of examining improvements in student achievement, or the “value-added” contributed by each school.  Yes, it is important to see where our kids end up each year, but it may be even more important for policymakers to assess the effectiveness of our districts, schools,  and even teachers at moving our students forward each year.  And to fairly assess effectiveness, we must look beyond year-end status measures to measures of student growth or value-added (we’ve been ranting about the benefits of value-added for awhile now).

If we are able to ascertain which districts and schools (or teachers or instructional strategies) prove especially effective at fostering  student learning, we can then use this information to help all districts and schools across the state improve.   Or, for administrators who are concerned about overall scores in their schools, it would be very helpful to dig into grade by grade scores to figure out which are seeing the most growth.

Along those lines, we’d like to let our readers know about some very helpful resources that are available to all but may not yet be known to all.  One of the best resources Arkansas educators have at their disposal is the ARC Quick Looks website published by the Arkansas Research Center.

The graph below is an example of the value added to a particular cohort of students in a specific district in Arkansas. As can be seen, most years these students (scores depicted by the blue bars)  “grew” above the state average (depicted by the red line). Using the Quick Looks site, educators and interested observers can examine the growth of students by grade, by cohort, and also by sub-populations (and compare that growth to the growth made throughout Arkansas). These tools have been made available free of charge to educators, parents, and anyone interested. Using these data, district and school leaders can target strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, districts can set goals that are based on student improvement rather than on an arbitrary “point-in-time” proficiency bar. We encourage educators to use these valuable resources to help them increase student achievement.

The Arkansas Research Center (ARC) was founded in 2009 by a grant from the National Center for Education Statistics to the Arkansas Department of Education with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. ARC is affiliated with the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) acting as partners in research and educational policy.  The stated goal of the ARC is to use student longitudinal data to provide essential K-12 information to everyone from parents to teachers, administrators, researchers and policy makers. The ARC strives to provide accurate data in a user friendly manner for everyone.

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