From a Knoxville News Sentinel article by David Kleim, November 22, 1998:

Until recently, Dr. William Sanders was relatively unknown outside his profession. The University of Tennessee statistician intended to finish his career helping researchers figure out the most efficient ways to do their jobs.

In the past year, however, Sanders has risen toward stardom on the national education scene.

He's the brains behind Tennessee's student-testing system, which offers hard data for some of education's most common questions and most pressing accountability issues.

"Tennessee is light years ahead of the rest of the country," said Dr. Bruce S. Cooper, a professor at the Fordham University graduate school of education in New York, where Sanders has lectured.

"I've studied the whole world. I think it's one of the best systems in the whole world, not just the United States."

In a nutshell:

* Sanders' system measures students' academic gains from year to year, not students' raw scores alone. That holds schools accountable for assuring every child learns. High-scoring schools can't rest on their laurels. Low-scoring schools can't blame poverty or a bad neighborhood.

* Sanders gave statistical evidence for the long-held belief that bad teachers hurt students. A child with a "very ineffective teacher" three years in a row likely will never recover fully, his model showed. This was the first bit of news to gain significant nationwide notice after being published in the News-Sentinel in 1996.

* More recently, Sanders has been talking about another analysis showing higher-achieving inner-city black children too often make slower academic gains than they should, likely because their teachers' energies and efforts are directed toward a disproportionate number of lower-achieving students.

"The lower end of the kids are moving up. The ... top end of the kids are moving down, and they're converging somewhere around the 35th percentile," Sanders said. "I probably get more amens and nodding, knowing smiles from African-American educators (from that finding) than anything I say.

 

Copyright 1998, 199, 2000, 2001  by David N. Shearon