Nashville students go from blackboards to mortarboards

SAS® EVAAS® for K-12 helps increase student achievement and graduation rates

For some students, having a teacher with the integrity to care about their future can mean the difference between going on to a life of crime and punishment or reading about it in a Dostoevsky novel.

A few years ago, when teacher Julie Simone was introduced to the State of Tennessee's SAS Educational Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), she had a sort of epiphany.

"I felt like we were measuring how good students were getting at standardized testing, instead of how good students were getting at learning or how good teachers were at teaching," says Simone, a middle school teacher for Metro Nashville Public Schools. "I had an experience with a student who came to me reading at the second-grade level. He'd already had two zero tolerance offenses and wasn't proficient on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP). We worked intensively with him – literacy and numeracy coaches and me. At the end of the school year, he was reading at the fifth-grade level. Reading at that level for him could mean the difference between a deeper involvement in the criminal justice system or being able to contribute meaningfully to society. I felt like TVAAS did a better job of showing me that than just his raw TCAP data.

With TVAAS, you can look at how your students are projected to do on the next TCAP. I can look at what a student has done and predict how he or she will do.

Julie Simone
Middle School Teacher

"The studies I have read show that no matter what your socioeconomic background is, you have the same ability to learn as everyone else," she continues. "I believe in a 'no excuses' approach to teaching kids. That said, some students who have a limited availability of resources need differentiated education interventions. What I like about TVAAS is that you can make some very specific plans to help them move forward."

According to Simone, TVAAS – a reporting and analysis system that provides diagnostic information about past practices and reports on students' predicted success probabilities – distinguishes itself from raw TCAP scores by identifying students who look like they have advanced but haven't really progressed at all.

"Recently, I redoubled my efforts to look at the advanced student population and work on moving their scores, because they're entitled to just as much growth in a school year as a child who's not reading at grade level," she explains. "With TVAAS, you can look at how your students are projected to do on the next TCAP. I can look at what a student has done and predict how he or she will do."

As with any new system, adoption can often be slow, with users questioning the benefit of moving from something they do not think is broken. But for Simone, it didn't take long to see the positive impact TVAAS could have.

"There was one particular experience that really sold me on using TVAAS," she explains. "It happened while teaching fifth-grade math. I had a student who had achieved advanced TCAP scores in the third, fourth and fifth grades, but while he was testing advanced, his personal profile graph showed that he was losing ground. If I had looked only at the TCAP scores I would have agreed that he was advanced and had done a great job. I was able to alert the sixth grade teacher and say he looks great on paper, but his scores are steadily decreasing and we need an intervention.

"TVAAS will be very effective in trying to reach higher graduation rates for students. I believe in the Matthew effect, which basically says that if you hold children to higher standards they're going to continue to do better, and the kids who don't have those opportunities will continue to do worse. We have to intervene as soon as we can using the scores from the third, fourth and fifth grades, so that we can make the changes that will give students a boost by the time they reach grades seven through nine. Those classes make a difference as to whether or not a student will be able to continue following a rigorous high school curriculum – it's going to make a difference in their eligibility for college."


School district required a reporting and analysis system that could track students' academic achievement and growth and identify students in need of specific intervention to help them succeed.


SAS® EVAAS® for K-12


Provides a complete view of students' progress, predicts student success probabilities and helps educators develop individual teaching plans, contributing to higher graduation rates.

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