"March madness" of student course enrollment gets assist from value-added assessment


As teachers head into the madness of student course registration, the madness of college basketball reinforces a critical point: Data is crucial to making the picks that lead to a winning bracket, and student growth. Value-added assessment has proven reliable in determining which students are ready for their "one shining moment".

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the excitement of the NCAA tournament, the thrilling finishes, the Cinderella stories… I enjoy the bracket challenges, despite my lack of success. My son tells me to “Think, Mom!” because he knows I pick my teams based on emotion.  I admit, I pay no attention to team data. My son, on the other hand, is all about the numbers.  He knows the stats, the teams’ strengths and weaknesses and the positional match-ups that decide games. His bracket defeats mine every year!

The brackets reminded me of the 8th grade registration packet my son recently had to fill out.  He circled Algebra I on his course guide. It was no surprise as he loves math, and it is one of his best subjects.

As a parent, it was easy for me to sign off on his choice, but I wondered how we, as teachers, select courses for our students?  Teachers know their students well, and many of these recommendations have been successful, but do we sometimes let our emotions and subjectivity guide our recommendations?  Do we worry we may have held back a student whose potential we may not have recognized?

Today, reliable analytics such as EVAAS can help us be proactive in student course enrollment that can promote student growth.

A few years ago, Wake Forest Rolesville Middle School decided to use value-added assessment to determine which students should be enrolled in Algebra I as 8th graders.  Like many schools and districts, its policies around enrollment relied on math placement as early as 5th grade, and on teacher recommendation.

In the first year, WFRMS tripled enrollment in 8th grade Algebra 1, from 50 to 150. 100% of those students passed the course. You do that in your bracket pool and Warren Buffet gives you $1 billion!

The effort is ongoing in five large North Carolina districts, where Algebra 1 enrollments have doubled and tripled, and proficiency rates are above 95 %.

According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education, “Taking advanced math courses in high school was more strongly associated with successful completion of college than any other factor including high school grade point average and socioeconomic status.” Adelman, 1999

As we begin to plan for next school year with our students, let's use the data.  Data provides insight that our human biases can miss. Our students deserve every opportunity to be challenged and to be supported as they work to grow academically. We chose to enter our profession to change the lives of our students.  Now, more than ever, we have data to help drive the art of teaching.

I could still use someone to explain the Mercer-Duke game to me, however.


About Author

Jennifer Bell

Customer Account Executive

Hello! I’m Jennifer Bell. I’m a wife, mother of four, and avid runner who loves to laugh! I am a NC Teaching Fellows graduate of Meredith College and am currently pursuing my Master’s degree in Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Before coming to SAS I served the public schools of North Carolina as a National Board Certified teacher and data coach for 15 years. As an education nerd and passionate teacher at heart, my role at SAS as an education specialist is a perfect fit. Working with schools, districts and states to use data to drive school improvement and improve student outcomes allows me to continue to champion every student.

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