Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Paul Attewell

Committee Members

Stanley Aronowitz

Philip Kasinitz

Subject Categories

Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Sociology | Politics and Social Change | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies | Science and Technology Studies | Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education | Social Statistics | Theory, Knowledge and Science


Sociology of Education, Assessment Policy, Value-Added Assessment, Science and Technology, Standardized Testing


In the first decade of the 21st century, researchers and policymakers in K-12 education began to focus on evaluating teacher and school performance based on students’ standardized test scores. One evaluative technique, value-added assessment (VAA), has been given particular attention. This research presents a comprehensive study of the theoretical, technical, historical and political dimensions VAA. Theoretically, the assumptions that underlie value-added diverge significantly from the observed operations of the schools and classrooms these models are supposed to evaluate. Technically, even if the theoretical assumptions are accepted, teachers’ actual value-added rankings are shown to be unstable across time periods and classrooms for individual teachers based on publicly-available data from New York City schools. Historical discourse analysis shows how the political and technical evolution of VAA fit a pattern common to prior technical innovations in educational assessment. Finally, making a case study of the Vergara v. California trial, this research demonstrates the political force of VAA data in spite of its known limitations. These findings are considered in the context of sociological theories of science and policy.