Dr. William L. Sanders
1942 - 2017
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Dr. William "Bill" Lester Sanders

Columbia, TN

Dr. William (Bill) Lester Sanders, passed away Thursday, March 16, 2017 of natural causes at Williamson Medical Center, surrounded by his wife June Rivers Sanders, daughter Sarah Sanders Teague, son Will Sanders, and his stepsons Brian Rivers and Mark Rivers.

Sanders was born the son of Lester and Sara Sanders in Shelbyville, Tennessee, on April 26, 1942. He grew up in Bedford County with his two sisters Sylvia Sanders Pinson and Mary Grace Curlee, as well as his cousin Charlene Pickle Judd. Bill was a graduate of The University of Tennessee, where he received a bachelors of Science degree in animal science in 1964, and a doctorate in Statistics and Quantitative Genetics in 1968. Throughout his time as a student at The University of Tennessee, Sanders was an active member of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity.

Beginning in 1972, Sanders created and led a statistical and consulting group for the Institute of Agricultural Research for The University of Tennessee system. Over the next 28 years, Sanders worked with scientists to plan experiments and analyze the resulting data on research projects ranging from agronomy to physics. One of his research projects modeled the nutrient flow in the Peace River system in Florida, which proved that the environmental degradation in the Gulf was not a function of the development along the west coast as was previously thought but rather was a result of the phosphate mining activity in Central Florida. Other projects were as wide ranging as developing a forecasting system for Bike Athletic to improve forecasts for over 2,500 different inventory units to working with a longtime friend to develop a process that improved calibration of an invention that measures fiber properties.

Sanders also served as an adjunct professor of statistics for the College of Business and later became the director of the Value-Added Research and Assessment Center at The University of Tennessee. One of many highlights of his career was a study that demonstrated the lasting effects of educational practices on future student performance. As a result of this research, Sanders developed the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS), also known as the Educational Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS), a method used to measure a district, school, and teacher's effect on student performance by tracking the year-to-year progress of students against themselves over their school career with various teachers' classes.

Sanders went on to be the senior manager of Educational Value Added Assessment Services at SAS Institute Inc. © in Cary, North Carolina. Sanders stood for a hopeful view that teacher effectiveness dwarfs all other factors as a predictor of student academic growth. His position challenged decades of assumptions that student family life, income, or ethnicity has more effect on student learning. Sanders believed, simply put, that educational influence matters and teachers matter most.

Since 1992, Sanders' work has been the foundation of the accountability system in Tennessee. Sanders became a national leader in value-added assessments and his work is key to education policy discussion across the country. It has changed the way teachers assess students, principals assess teachers, superintendents assess principals, and school boards assess superintendents. Sanders work was dedicated to enabling parents, educators, and lawmakers to better assess the effectiveness of educational practice.

For his many achievements in the field of education, the Education Commission of the States named Dr. William L. Sanders the 2015 recipient of the James Bryant Conant Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the field. In doing so, Sanders joined an esteemed list of past recipients, including Thurgood Marshall, E. D. Hirsch, Fred (Mr.) Rogers and Lamar Alexander.

Throughout all of this, his family was the constant joy of his life. He was also an avid golfer, quail hunter, and breeder of English setters. Fitting his family genealogy within the broader context of the settling of his country and state filled many days. Always observing and questioning, his goal was to learn something new every day.

Sanders is survived by his wife June Rivers Sanders and the Pallbearers: daughter Sarah Sanders Teague and her husband Matthew Teague; son Dr. William Gordon Sanders and his wife Reetu Gowdar Sanders; stepson Brian Lee Rivers and his wife Tracy Blackwell Rivers; Mark Evan Rivers and his wife Angela Barrett Rivers. He is also survived by sister Sylvia Sanders Pinson; sister Mary Grace Curlee and her husband David Curlee; and cousin Charlene Pickle Judd. Sanders also leaves behind eight grandchildren, all of whom are Honorary Pallbearers: Ava Jean Teague, Locke Jameson Teague, Rohan William Sanders, Sonia Lucille Sanders, Evan Barrett Rivers, Rogan James Rivers, Dylan Reed Rivers, and Ewan Jude Rivers. Additional Honorary Pallbearers include his brothers of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and The Old Golfers of Graymere, including Waymon Hickman, Joe High, Alvin Moore, J. B. Shepard, Stan Keely, Richard Kennedy, Dan Wheeler, Julius Johnson, and others.

Visitation will take place at Feldhaus Memorial Chapel in Shelbyville, TN on Saturday March 18, 2017, from 4 pm – 7 pm. A celebration of life will follow on March 19, 2017, at the Shiloh United Methodist Church in Wheel, TN at 2 pm.

Dr. Sanders believed that the purpose of all education is to provide more students with more choices in life. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Dr. Sanders made to the Shiloh United Methodist Church Scholarship Fund c/o Jennifer Trot, 270 Card Road, Shelbyville, TN 37160. The Shiloh UMC Scholarship Fund aims to provide the community members support for community college, university, trade school or other opportunities.

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Published in The News and Observer on Mar. 18, 2017.
04:00 - 07:00 PM
Celebration of Life
02:00 PM
Shiloh United Methodist Church
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11 entries
March 23, 2017
To the Family of Dr. Bill Sanders,

It was with sorrow that I learned on National Public TV of the passing of Dr. Sanders.

I had wonderful opportunity to become acquainted with Bill during my four years with the State Department of Education. Even after I left the SDE, I'd call with a question that had been posed to me about TVAS and he always responded in a friendly and complete way.

As I watched him interact with educators across the state, I was always amazed at how calm he was in the face of some violent opposition. He was always a true gentleman and educator.

He will be greatly missed and my life has been enriched by having had the opportunity to see and work with him.

May God bless each of you in the days to come. The world has lost a Good Man!

Elaine Willers Jones
March 21, 2017
June and family, I was sorry to learn of the death of your husband, Bill.

Carolyn W. Moss, and old home-town friend
March 21, 2017
Dear June and family, I am so sorry to hear of Bill's passing. I have great memories of robust but always polite and respectful political debates during our lunches at SAS. And he was a skilled storyteller, including one about his prize-winning cow. He will be sorely missed.
Jessica Lim
March 21, 2017
Our heartfelt condolences to Reetu, Will and the entire Sanders family. RIP Dr. William.
Naveen Gowd & Family
March 20, 2017
My deepest sympathy goes out to the Sanders family. The pain of such loss is palpable. He was an impressive man who clearly lived a life that greatly contributed to the world of education I will keep them in my thoughts and prayers.
Lynettte Teague
March 20, 2017
My condolences to the family and friends of Dr. Sanders during this difficult time.
Jessica T.
March 20, 2017
Dear June and family,

I did not hear of Bill's passing until yesterday (19th) and just got the obituary today. (It hasn't been in the Knoxville paper yet, as far as I know.)

I mourn with you. Bill was a very special person, which I came to learn over many years of discussions regarding value added assessment. I owe what I have learned in that area primarily to Bill (and to you, June). In the process of that learning, I became a strong supporter of value-added assessment, a strong supporter of Bill's model, and an educator convinced of his passion for education and the educational development of children. Bill will be sorely missed, by all of you I know, but also by many of us who came to know him and value him as a friend and colleague.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding be yours in this time of mourning!
Russell French
March 19, 2017
You will always live on in my heart..Thanks for the memories! RIP my dear friend..
Rosemary Shelton
March 19, 2017
Thinking of you and Love you Sarah and Will.
Aunt Snooks
Paulene Rassler
March 18, 2017
I met Bill in 2000 when I heard him speak at a superintendent's conference in Florida. When I became the first executive director of Battelle for Kids in 2001, Bill was the first person I called to help us work with schools, administrators, and teachers in Ohio to provide more opportunities for students to have success in their lives. Over the next decade we did that. But what I remember most about Bill in addition to his brilliant mathematical skills was his sincerity, genuine interest in others, and kindness to everyone. He truly cared about teachers, how to help them, and of course the students they worked with each day. Above all else, Bill was a teacher and always respectful of those who choose this profession to help children. I learned so much from him from our conversations about mixed models to golfing, genealogy, politics, basketball, and history. To June especially and kids and grandkids, please accept my deepest sympathy for your profound loss. It was one of my great privileges in life to work with Bill, be influenced by him, learn from him, and like so many others...admire him for so many gifts he shared with all of us. And while we will mourn his passing, it is his living that shall forever be remembered. Jim Mahoney
JIm Mahoney
March 17, 2017
I met Bill and June in 2002 - when Pennsylvania started using EVAAS in public education. Our PA team had the pleasure of spending much time over the years with Bill and June - learning about value-added assessment, hearing about Bill's landmark research in education, hearing about Bill's ongoing research to learn more and more about the effectiveness of schools and teachers - as well as great stories of Bill and his life. Our team has Bill to thank for our work in Pennsylvania with PVAAS and all that we have learned over the years. Pennsylvania has Bill to thank for changing the conversations about students- from why they can't achieve to discussions about growing student at all levels - discussions about the influence of district, school and teachers on student growth. You have left EVAAS in great hands with Dr. John White at SAS. He continues the great work you began so many years ago.

I must share my favorite quote from Bill, he shared this with me while we were waiting in a hotel lobby to catch the shuttle at the OH value-added conference about 10-12 years ago- he said in his charming, southern Tennessee accent "Kristen, it is easy to be a movie critic, hard to be the movie maker." He definitely made a movie for education! An amazing man!

The love and respect between Bill and June was always evident in our work with them. No greater gift than a love so great! Rest in peace Bill. You will be missed by so many, but your heart, your spirit, your passion for education. and your legacy will live on forever.
Kristen Lewald
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