Value Added Part II

I guess the thing that bugs me the most about the phrase “value-added” is that it is just another example of the world of education bowing down to the world of business. Kids are now products, and we need to add value to these products before they head out into the marketplace.

I wonder what, in recent history, has suggested that the world of business has anything to even offer the world of education. In just the past couple of years, business models have messed up the economy as well as the gulf of Mexico. Why on earth would we be looking to business to help us figure out how to better educate our kids?

According to Wikipedia:

Value added refers to “extra” feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something “more” while adding little or nothing to its cost. Value-added features give competitive edges to companies with otherwise more expensive products.

Based on this definition, we, as educators, are to simply work harder and get better results without any additional resources. This, or course, is not a new expectation. We’ve been expected to work hard with unfair compensation from the get-go. After all, we didn’t go into this business for the money.

According to the Analytic Quality Glossary:

Value added is about what value, to the student, has been accumulated as a result of a period of time in higher education. Institutions may be evaluated or assessed on the basis of the cumulative value that they add to their students. Some proponents argue that the status of an institution should be judged by their value added contribution. 

“Cumulative value”. I’d like to see a single piece of policy coming from any state anywhere in the country in which the “cumulative value” that is “added” to a student during their time in school has not been reduced to a set of test scores neatly plotted on a graph.

Business executives are not educators. They aren’t good at running school systems (sorry Cathie Black), they don’t understand the nuances of teaching young people, and they don’t, quite frankly, know what they are talking about when they use phrases like “value-added” in educational dialogue. Business people are good at numbers and spread sheets.

It’s time to take back our classrooms.




Eve Rifkin

Eve Rifkin

Tucson, Arizona

I have been an educator for over 20 years. As a founding co-director of City High School, I have held a variety of leadership and teaching roles, including academic director, humanities teacher, and principal. I am currently the Director of College Access and support students as they envision their lives after high school.

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