Education
Congressional Newsletter
A series of periodic updates to Congress on RAND's work in education

The Post-9/11 GI Bill: A Snapshot of Students' and Institutions' Perspectives

a man reading in a library

The Post-9/11 GI Bill—which took effect on August 1, 2009—significantly increased higher-education benefits for eligible individuals who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces after September 10, 2001. But its early implementation faced several challenges. For example, the new policy is more difficult to administer than its immediate predecessor, the Montgomery GI Bill; also, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had only 14 months to upgrade its claims processing infrastructure for implementation, so claims processing was initially reported to be slow and error-prone.

Using focus groups and interviews in three states (Arizona, Ohio, and Virginia) and an online survey, a RAND Corporation study examined implementation challenges in the first year from the perspectives of both college students and higher-education institutions. Researchers sought insights about how higher-education institutions can more effectively support returning veterans.

The study found that the new law motivated some military veterans to pursue higher education—with the living allowance and direct payments to institutions cited as important features—and that veterans' program administrators and fellow veterans served as key sources of support to student veterans. It identified several challenges that student veterans faced, including not only claims processing delays but also the lack of an online accounting system for tracking benefits and difficulty understanding the benefits. Beyond using the new benefits, some student veterans faced difficulties in transferring military training to academic credits, meeting academic expectations, balancing academic and other responsibilities, relating to nonveteran students, and coping with service-related disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The study recommended that institutions can help by providing veterans' program administrators with sufficient resources, offering campus information sessions for veterans, and encouraging veterans to form student communities.

READ THE RESEARCH BRIEF:
How Military Veterans Are Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Adapting to Life in College

What Do We Know About Incorporating Student Performance Measures into Teacher Evaluation Systems?

students taking a test in a classroom

To recognize and reward teachers for contributing to students' learning, states and districts are retooling their teacher evaluation systems to incorporate measures of student performance. These efforts are aided by improved access to longitudinal data systems that link teachers to students and by improved statistical models for associating teachers with their students' test score gains. But at least two important challenges remain: generating valid estimates of teachers' contributions to student learning and including teachers who do not teach subjects or grades that are tested annually.

Given these challenges, a RAND Corporation study analyzed the systems of three districts (Denver, Colorado; Hillsborough County, Florida; and Washington, D.C.) and two states (Tennessee and Delaware) that have begun or are planning to incorporate measures of student performance into their teacher evaluations. The study focused on what is and is not known about the quality of various student performance measures that the systems are using and how the systems are supplementing existing measures—such as scores from state accountability tests—with other student performance measures and other information about teachers' effectiveness.

The study found that policymakers should demand adequate score reliability (freedom from errors of measurement) and also collect and review evidence about the validity of inferences drawn from value-added estimates (the accuracy and appropriateness of score interpretations). Policymakers may also wish to select student assessments that are vertically scaled so that scores fall on a comparable scale from year to year.

As for additional student performance measures that states or districts might use, the study found that locally developed assessments can be well aligned with local curricula, but such assessments need to be developed, administered, and scored in ways that are comparable from teacher to teacher and from year to year. Commercially produced interim assessments are more comparable across classrooms and over time, but, like locally developed assessments, they are often not designed for use in high-stakes contexts. Using aggregate student performance measures, such as school- or department-wide test scores, to evaluate teachers in nontested subjects or grades allows school systems to rely on existing measures but may create a two-tiered system in which some teachers are evaluated differently from others. For the most part, none of these measures has been validated for use in teacher evaluations, which may carry high stakes for teachers in terms of future course assignments, compensation, employment, and so forth. Policymakers must also consider how teachers will be held accountable for students who receive instruction from multiple teachers in the same subject in a given year.

When incorporating student achievement measures into teacher evaluation systems policymakers should (1) create comprehensive evaluation systems that incorporate multiple measures of teacher effectiveness; (2) choose measures for which there is strong evidence of reliability and validity, and attend to how the assessments are being used in high-stakes contexts; (3) if teachers are allowed to choose supplemental performance measures, set clear parameters to promote consistency among classrooms; (4) use multiple years of student achievement data in value-added estimation and, where possible, average teachers' value-added estimates across multiple years; and (5) find ways to hold teachers accountable for students they teach who are not included in value-added estimates.

READ THE RESEARCH BRIEF:
Using Student Performance to Evaluate Teachers

RESEARCHER PROFILE

Heather Schwartz

Heather Schwartz

Heather Schwartz is an associate policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. Her research considers policies to ameliorate the effects of poverty on children. Her work falls into four policy areas intended to help close the income achievement gap: economically integrative housing programs, universal preschool, school choice, and school accountability measures under No Child Left Behind. She recently completed a longitudinal random-assignment study quantifying the benefits of economic integration in schools and neighborhoods for low-income students' academic performance over the course of their elementary school careers. Schwartz received her Ph.D. in education policy from Columbia University.

Read more about Heather Schwartz »


RAND CONGRESSIONAL RESOURCES STAFF

Lindsey Kozberg
Vice President, Office of External Affairs

Winfield Boerckel
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Matthew Dicker
Education Legislative Analyst

RAND Office of Congressional Relations
(703) 413-1100, ext. 5395


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RAND Education conducts research on a wide range of topics in education. Our mission is to bring accurate data and careful, objective analysis to the national debate on education policy. To access all of our research, please visit our website at www.rand.org/education.html.

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