The SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System (SAS® EVAAS®) in the Houston Independent School District (HISD): Intended and Unintended Consequences

Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, Clarin Collins


The SAS Educational Value-Added Assessment System (SAS® EVAAS®) is the most widely used value-added system in the country. It is also self-proclaimed as “the most robust and reliable” system available, with its greatest benefit to help educators improve their teaching practices. This study critically examined the effects of SAS® EVAAS® as experienced by teachers, in one of the largest, high-needs urban school districts in the nation – the Houston Independent School District (HISD). Using a multiple methods approach, this study critically analyzed retrospective quantitative and qualitative data to better comprehend and understand the evidence collected from four teachers whose contracts were not renewed in the summer of 2011, in part given their low SAS® EVAAS® scores. This study also suggests some intended and unintended effects that seem to be occurring as a result of SAS® EVAAS® implementation in HISD. In addition to issues with reliability, bias, teacher attribution, and validity, high-stakes use of SAS® EVAAS® in this district seems to be exacerbating unintended effects.


value-added models (VAMs); validity; reliability; high-stakes testing; teacher effectiveness; teacher evaluation; educational Policy; accountability

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3 Responses to “The SAS Education Value-Added Assessment System (SAS® EVAAS®) in the Houston Independent School District (HISD): Intended and Unintended Consequences”

  1. Heather Lorenz says:

    1. I teach social studies. Each year students study a different area of social studies. For example, in 5th grade, students study U.S. History, in 6th grade, World Cultures & Geography, in 7th grade, Texas History, and in 8th grade, U.S. History. I feel that comparing test scores from one grade to the next in social studies is like comparing apples to oranges. In reading, it is more like comparing apples to apples, which is fair.

    2. If students perform very well one year — 99% for example, and the following year students also perform at 99%, students have performed well, but according to my understanding of EVAAS, the teacher would be seen as not very effective, since there was not much growth. However, 99% any year with any student, is excellent. Students getting 99% means the teacher did her job, but EVAAS does not agree with that. Even if the students went from 99% one year to 98% the next year, the students have still performed very well, but EVAAS would show this as bad for the teacher. There are some major flaws in the EVAAS and value-added system.

    • M. Elwood says:

      The Evaas system discourages high performing teachers with high performing students. For example; if last year the students average at 99% it may seem awesome, yet if this year the students average at 98% the system records this at no growth/progress. The system does not take into account test day variables. (For example, student parent just died, house burned, police arrest, custody issues,apathetic students who do not finish any test, or just plain illness.) It seems that school administrators ignore this anomaly. It appears with prejudice this common practice to include these test scores that are not edited due to the circumstances. Much less the scientific validity of the program.

  2. Duane Swacker says:

    The whole standards and standardized testing regime has been debunked by Wilson in “Educational Standards and the Problem of Error” found at: . I know of no rebuttal-professional or otherwise-to this study. For a shorter take down of validity or ‘invalidity’ as Wilson likes to call it, as developed in the bible of educational/psychological testing (AERA, APA, & NCME 2000) can be found in “A Little Less than Valid: An Essay Review” at: .

    One of the most troubling aspects, other than the total invalidity of the entire process, is that the AERA, APA & NCME and all the test producers state that to use a testing device for any thing other than its stated purpose is UNETHICAL. For example the EVAAS system uses 5th grade math, reading, etc. . . , test scores to significantly evaluate a teacher. Sorry but that is dead wrong and unethical.

    As R. Ackhoff states “If you’re doing the wrong thing and attempt to do it better you are getting ‘wronger’”. Or as Wilson states in his essay review “As before, I focus on validity. Why? Because as the good book [AERA, APA, & NCME 2000]says, ‘Validity is, therefore the most fundamental consideration in developing tests (pg 9).’ I concur. If the test event is not valid, if indeed the test is invalid, then all else is VAIN and ILLUSORY (my emphasis).”

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