PVAAS Resources

by PAGE Exec Secretary

FAQs: Achievement, Growth, & Demographics


  1. Is it possible to show progress with all groups of students, including students with IEPs, gifted students, high achieving, and low-achieving students?Yes, if assessments have enough “stretch” to measure the achievement of both low- and high-achieving students, it is possible to measure the progress of all groups of students. The PSSA does in fact meet the criteria needed for such value-added analyses. The EVAAS value-added methodology used is sensitive to changes in individual students’ achievement levels. It uses all longitudinal data to measure growth between two points in time regardless of whether a student performs below, at, or above grade level.
  2. Do socioeconomic or other demographic factors of a school’s student population impact progress?Demographic variables have NO significant relationship with student progress measures. Value-added analysis measures the change in students’ academic achievement levels from one point in time to another using all prior data. Factors that remain relatively constant over time, such as socioeconomic status, have shown little or no impact on students’ progress. Evidence from PVAAS reporting in Pennsylvania has yielded results to show that there are many schools in Pennsylvania making significant growth with students with IEPs, ELL students, minority students, and economically disadvantaged students.
  3. Is the PSSA designed in a way that it can be used to measure the progress of all students, both high- and low-achieving?While the PSSA assessments are designed to determine proficiency from non-proficiency, the PSSAs are also designed to have sufficient stretch to determine Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, and Advanced performance levels. It is important to remember that the PSSA has no ceiling. As reported by the Bureau of Assessment and Accountability at the PA Department of Education, each year the PSSA is scaled using the lowest score of 700 and the previous year’s cut scores for the Proficient category. The high end is then scaled based on the distribution of the data, NOT on a fixed, pre-determined value. The PSSA assessments meet ALL three conditions required by the EVAAS methodologies: (1) they are aligned to the curriculum standards, (2) they are proven to be reliable and valid, and (3) they demonstrate sufficient stretch at the extremes to measure growth of high and low achieving students. SAS, Inc. performs routine checks every year to look at the stretch and stability of the PSSA scaled scores. To look at stretch in particular, SAS, Inc. does two things. First, they ensure there are enough different scaled scores at the top and bottom of the scales to differentiate student achievement. SAS, Inc. then looks at the percentage of students scoring at the top to ensure there are no ceilings. After analyses are complete, SAS, Inc. ensures that schools that serve both high- and low-achieving students can show both high and low growth.
  4. How is it possible to show growth in schools that already have a high percentage of students scoring at the Advanced level?It is important to remember that ALL students can make one year’s worth of academic growth as measured by PVAAS value-added analyses. In PVAAS, one year’s worth of academic growth is about maintaining students’ achievement levels (grades 4-8, reading and math) or meeting expected performance (science, writing, and grades 9-11, reading and math) based on a specific group’s prior academic performance. Making one year’s worth of academic growth in PVAAS does NOT mean increasing achievement levels; rather it is about maintaining achievement levels. For low-achieving schools, one year’s growth (green in PVAAS) may NOT be sufficient or acceptable in order for students to meet long-term achievement goals of proficiency. However, for high-achieving schools, one year’s growth (green in PVAAS) may be sufficient or acceptable.

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