You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 6 p.m.

Adjusting academic achievement using socio-economic factors not useful to students

By Letters to the Editor

I read with great interest the story featuring Ron French’s article “Measuring Student Achievement” in the Sunday, Jan. 13, issue of Ann Arbor.Com. Mr. French — and apparently a lot of others — are confusing Value-Added-Measurement (VAM) with the fairly long-standing practice of adjusting pupils’ academic achievement scores by factors such as the relative socio-economic status, the geographic location, and the racial-ethnic makeup of groups of pupils.


High school substitute teacher Andrea Merry teaches social studies.

Joseph Tobianski |

While such adjustments often can produce data that are quite informative and useful in fashioning policies and strategies for improving instruction and learning, they are not Value-Added-Measurement.

Value-added measures, as normally defined, are measures that estimate the contributions made to student test scores by educators, and principally by classroom teachers. They are designed to calculate the annual academic growth of individual students or groups of students, measuring what portion of a year’s academic growth those students are achieving for each year of instruction.

In effect, properly designed VAM would report on the extent to which a school (or district) is “adding academic value” each year for each student going through the system.

The Michigan Department of Education, currently working with other states in a consortium effort, intends to utilize value-added measures in future reporting of state assessment results — but has not yet done that.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to ensure — and be able to report — that each child and young person in our schools is on the road to achieving proficiency in his or her academic subjects. Adjusting academic achievement scores by socio-economic factors — as reported by Mr. French, while useful in identifying student needs and fashioning improvement strategies to meet those needs, is saying little or nothing about the academic growth of those students.

C. Philip Kearney

Professor Emeritus at University of Michigan

Ann Arbor



Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

Where on earth did you come up with the headline? This article does not say this at all. Bizarre.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

Blah, Blah, blah. . . More metrics, more tests, and more analysis are simply a means for the educational "elite" to perpetuate their existence, and their perceived lofty status. Furthermore, with the Charters in place we effectively dilute our pool of talented educators, and involved parents. 1. Identify the best teachers (BTW we don't need tests to figure this out. . . the teachers themselves and parents know). Make sure the best teachers have the resources to perform at their optimum level. 2. Identify the worst teachers (see my BTW comment above. . . ). Get rid of this dead-weight poisoning our future. 3. Do everything we can possibly do to promote and champion two parent households. Two (dedicated) parents in a household generally have the physical and emotional capacity to address the needs of children and the demands of the rigorous educational commitment needed to succeed. 4. Take every report/memo/action item that references in any way the "achievement gap" to the high desert of Nevada and bury it. . .


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:55 p.m.

Hmm. . . Understood on my extreme view. . . let me justify. It is my opinion that the focus on the achievement gap ("the Gap") distracts AAPS from their mission -- to educate all to their maximum potential. Based on my discussions with teachers and parents (the one's on the front lines of the challenge) too much investment and handwringing is made in the interest of the Gap at the expense of educating all. l fear that we risk lowering the higher threshold of the Gap to achieve a lower Gap and achieve a measurable, but hollow, societal victory. I have first-hand knowledge of pupils at the lower end of the gap afforded educational/administrative support that pupils not deemed subject to (a/k/a victims of ) the Gap have not been afforded. That by definition short-changes some pupils in the pursuit of a Gap remedy. Education is not a one-size fits all concept with a uniform outcome expectation. To delude ourselves that everyone can acchieve such a uniform outcome is a sure recipe to reach the lowest commonality. That being said(written) grant me the first three points (tall order) and I expect the Gap will take care of itself

Robert Granville

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

I was with you til the bury the achievement gap talk. We'd be doing a disservice to many students if that happened. There is an achievement gap and its a result of our country's history and it must continue to be addressed.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

"Value-added measurements" are a way to pad the achievements of the educator, not those of the students being taught.

Fat Bill

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2 a.m.

The real world can be a cold hard place. If you are measured against soft standards, your grade holds much less meaning.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:22 a.m.

So does this mean the square root of 144 is +/- 12 in wealthy Ann Arbor AND out in the downtrodden sticks of Hamburg Township?


Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

I could be wrong, but the headline seems to imply that the author is arguing against these things, but his article sounds like he just said that they were called something they aren't.....Did I miss something here?


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

Did you read either of the 2 previous articles on the so-called "VAM"? You will see that what he is talking about is NOT what the articles were about. His point is that Value Added Measures can indeed be useful IF YOU ARE ACTUALLY MEASURING THE AMOUNT OF VALUE (of education) BEING ADDED. Emphasis totally mine. I agree totally with Prof Kearney in this comment. The term Value-Added was co-opted here and pasted onto something that is NOT a measurement of value-adding. The system in the previous articles measure ACTUAL RESULTS vs PREDICTED RESULTS. That is not a measurement of value-adding. I am sure there is a proper phrase for it, but I cannot think of it at this moment. But calling it what they did makes it seem so much more authoritative and useful.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Jan 16, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

This so quickly and eloquently deflates the entire Patricia Green regime. Her magna carta causes the most harm to those who most need her help.