Value Added - what is it?

We all know that academic progress is an individual thing. Making progress relies on a whole range of influencing factors and students make progress at different times and at different rates.

All too often the focus on exam results fails to take account of the mammoth steps students and teachers have sometimes taken on the way to attaining their personal summits.

So, in the interests of fairness, value-added measures are intended to offer:

  • a fairer indication of how far a student has come
  • a fairer measure of how well the school has brought that student on, and
  • a fairer way to make comparisons between different schools’ performances

The concept of value-added was pioneered by CEM founder Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon, whose vision of value-added systems was not led by governments as part of a top-down accountability process; rather, the demand for value-added was school-led, fed by teachers’ desire to have trustworthy, confidential information about how well they were doing.

Value-added feedback is a fair measure of the progress that students have made. Rather than relying solely on exam results, it takes account of where each student started from and the progress they made relative to other, similar students.  And we know that part of what is captured by value-added estimates reflects the genuine impact of a teacher on students’ learning.

We also know that value-added measures can drive improvement by understanding progress across the whole institution, identifying performance above or below expectation across all curriculum areas, and comparing performance to other schools and other school types.

At Heathfield, when pupils enter the school and also at the start of Form IV and the LVI, pupils take tests called MidYIS, YELLIS and ALIS. These are nationally recognised tests set by Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at the University of Durham. These tests measure a pupil’s ability in the areas of verbal communication, non-verbal communication and mathematical ability. The scores each pupil attains in these areas are then compared with tens of thousands of datasets compiled from pupils nationwide over the last decade. Pupils are then grouped with others who attained similar scores in CEM tests who have already completed their public examinations.

The outcomes of pupils from previous years are used to predict likely public examination grades of similar pupils now. If pupils exceed their predicted grades, the school has positive value added; if pupils fail to meet their predicted grades, the school has negative value added. CEM data can be used to set both minimum and aspirational target grades. At Heathfield, we set the MidYIS State Maintained School predicted grade (which contains the data from all participating state and independent schools) as the minimum GCSE target and the MidYIS Independent School predicted grade (which contains participating independent schools only) as the aspirational GCSE grade. We follow a similar process at A Level using the ALIS 50thpercentile predicted grade as the minimum predicted grade and the ALIS 75th percentile predicted grade as the aspirational grade.