High value-add schools: key drivers of school improvement

This report was originally published 13 October 2015.

Image: High value-add schools report


All educators strive to lift the achievement of their students. Educational researchers aim to assist in this effort by identifying the initiatives that are most likely to yield sustainable improvements in student performance. One approach to building this understanding is to examine the strategies in place in schools that have demonstrated significant improvements in student achievement over time.

The current study aimed to examine the key drivers of improvement in NSW government schools that have shown high growth in student outcomes over time. In this study, high growth schools were identified using a robust value-added methodology that isolates the contribution that a school makes to growth in student achievement while controlling for important contextual factors that may influence student performance.1 A mixed-methods approach, including a range of qualitative and quantitative analyses, was taken to explore the common factors associated with the performance improvements observed in High Value-Add (HVA) schools.

Results showed that HVA schools had a strong focus on:

  • effective collaboration
  • engaging and sharing in professional learning
  • setting whole-school goals and strategies for change
  • using explicit and effective teaching strategies
  • creating an environment that promotes learning and high levels of student engagement
  • setting high expectations for achievement.

These factors closely align with the effective practices identified in the recent Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE) publication What Works Best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance (CESE 2014a).

1 For more information on the value-add methodology, see Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation 2014c, Value added models for NSW government schools, technical paper, report prepared by L Lu & K Richard.


  • Leadership and school improvement
  • Research report

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