HJR 91: Joint Subcommittee to Study
the Use of Independent Educational Performance Assessment Services
September 30, 2002
Pursuant to HJR 91 of 2002,
the joint subcommittee was established as a six-member legislative body.
HJR 91 describes Virginia's reform efforts as implemented through
the Standards of Learning and the Standards of Accreditation, school report
cards, and other activities and notes that Virginia's focus has been
on establishing student learning and teaching standards. The enabling
resolution acknowledges the power of data analyses provided by independent
educational performance assessment services, such as Standard and Poor's
School Evaluation Services (SES). Such services can provide the tools
needed for effective decision-making, such as cost-benefit evaluations,
comparative analyses, longitudinal results, and identification of best
practices. The resolution directs the joint subcommittee to examine:
- Standard and Poor's
School Evaluation Services in other states;
- Virginia's ongoing school
- The feasibility and appropriateness
of implementing an independent school evaluation service within Virginia;
- Such other issues as the
subcommittee may deem necessary.
School Evaluation Services
After reviewing its directives,
the joint subcommittee received a presentation from representatives of
Standard and Poor's School Evaluation Services. Standard and Poor's
SES were introduced approximately three years ago following five years
of research and development.
Public perceptions of bias in
data analysis, public questioning of data validity as well as the appropriateness
of conflicting responsibilities within state departments, and the economies
of scale accomplished by the development of comprehensive data systems
are among the rationales for independent evaluation services. Standard
and Poor's can provide objective evaluation of comprehensive academic
data that includes trend analysis, demographics, and test data disaggregated
by subject areas, grade, and student characteristics. This approach combines
data from various sources into a single analysis framework and databank.
Single parent households, adult educational achievement, limited English
proficiency, free and reduced-price lunch, employment, household income,
and race/ ethnicity information are included in the demographic data.
Standard and Poor's SES
conducts performance evaluation using comparable and contextual academic,
financial and demographic data to provide consistent and clear information
for instructional and resource decisions and for ensuring accountability.
Disaggregation of data and the established goals can be used to compare
previous years' performance in each school or school division, each
school division's performance in relation to its peers, and each
school or school division's performance in relation to all other
schools or school divisions in the state. Standard and Poor's Performance
Cost Index can provide useful mechanisms for looking at cost benefit/return
on resources. For example, these analyses have resulted in conclusions
tying the funding to how money is being spent and identification of improvement
strategies to replication of such practices.
Standard and Poor's SES
were initiated in 2001 through contracts with Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The SES concept includes such powerful tools as needs assessments, goal
setting, strategic planning, budgeting and resource allocation, contract
negotiations, voter education, and constituent communication. The premise
of this data analysis is that consistent and continuous collection of
significant information will motivate improvement. In other words, that
objective and credible data analysis will motivate change.
Standard and Poor's SES
delivers its services via three platforms: an annual written report relating
to the strengths and concerns of each school district and each charter
school in Michigan and Pennsylvania; an interactive website providing
access to these reports and school and school district data for the public;
and a comprehensive annual report on the progress of the contracting states.
Administrators and parents are thus able to examine "best practices,"
eliminate misinformation, and use validated data to make informed decisions.
Using the data comparisons, unnecessarily high costs can be identified
and savings can be realized to improve teacher salaries or other important
budget items. Interested parties may access the current data on Michigan,
Pennsylvania and some schools in other states at the SES website: www.ses.standardandpoors.com.
Following the SES presentation,
the joint subcommittee members engaged in discussion and asked many questions
relating to sole-source contracting, availability of Virginia data, customization
of analysis, service costs, specific kinds of school data, teacher licensure
data, and the new data requirements of the federal law in No Child Left
Behind. The joint subcommittee noted that much data is already available
in Virginia; however, cost benefit/resource allocation analysis is infrequently
The second meeting of the joint
subcommittee has been scheduled for October 31, 2002, at 2:00 p.m. in
House Room C. During this meeting, the joint subcommittee will focus on
obtaining (i) follow-up comments from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and other
school systems on the effectiveness of the Standard and Poor's SES
(to be arranged through teleconference during the meeting); (ii) information
on the Virginia Department of Education's collection and use of data;
and (iii) descriptions of local school division use of comparative data
for decision-making and planning.
The Hon. Kathy J. Byron
For information, contact:
Norma E. Szakal
Division of Legislative Services
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