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Chuck Carney
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Last modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2012

IU researcher to discuss issues with 'value-added' models for education quality

Oct. 31, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University School of Education faculty member researching value-added measurements will make a presentation on these controversial measures in the latest Economics of Education Seminar Series. Cassandra Guarino, associate professor in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies department at the Indiana University School of Education, will discuss value-added models at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the Indiana Memorial Union State Room West.

Guarino, Cassandra

Cassandra Guarino

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Thursday's presentation and the Economics of Education Seminar Series are co-sponsored by the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs Policy Analysis/Public Finance Faculty Group, the IU School of Education, the Education Policy Student Association, the Multidisciplinary Ventures and Seminars Fund, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs.

Value-added measurements are statistical models used to create test-based performance measures as a component of teacher evaluations. Educators have raised numerous concerns about basing evaluations on such models given potential sources of bias and error in such measures, such as student sorting that may lead to misclassifying teachers as high- or low-performing.

Guarino is leading a study to evaluate and identify how well value-added measurements estimate teacher and school effects. The three-year study that began in May 2010 is supported by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.

"We've made a lot of progress in researching this," Guarino said. "Policy applications don't necessarily reflect everything we know."

Guarino said more research -- such as the study she and colleagues are conducting -- is important for implementing value-added models as a regular form of teacher evaluation. In the presentation, Guarino will address findings from her study; what is and is not yet known about how well the models work; and the implications for education policy.

Use of value-added measurements has grown in recent years as school systems seek new and more accurate tools for accountability. The public school systems of Chicago, New York City and the District of Columbia have adapted value-added models. Both Atlanta and Baltimore city schools are piloting value-added measurements for teacher evaluation.

Earlier this year, Guarino published a review of the most recent report from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project's large-scale examination of teacher evaluation methods. She and co-author Brian Stacy, a doctoral fellow at Michigan State University, concurred with the MET report authors that multiple measures of teacher effectiveness are needed to provide a more complete picture of teacher performance. They also concluded that classroom observations didn't provide a completely reliable evaluation, either.

"Teaching effectiveness is a complex construct," Guarino said. "I think we have to recognize that all the measures we currently have of effective teaching contain a lot of variability and measurement error."

Guarino holds a Ph.D. in economics of education from Stanford and is a former economist at the Rand Corporation. Her research focuses on value-added measures of teacher performance, teacher quality, teacher labor markets, school choice, and issues linking health and education.

Thursday's presentation is free and open to the public.