Student Learning Objectives

440I’ve written recently about our new teacher evaluation system WoTES, that we plan to implement fully next school year.  One piece of this plan is Student Learning Objectives (SLO’s).  This time last year I had never heard of SLO’s.  Now I think about them night and day.  Here’s the challenge:

113034HB 153 requires 50 percent of the teacher (and principal) evaluation framework to include measures of student growth.  For the purpose of use in evaluation systems, student growth is defined as the change in student achievement for an individual student between two or more points in time.

The challenge for measuring student growth is that there is not a single student assessment that can be used for all teachers. Worthington must use data from the state Ohio Achievement Assessments when available. If those are not applicable for a given subject or grade, Worthington is free to choose to use other assessments provided by national testing vendors and approved for use in Ohio (we will use MAP). For subjects without state assessments or approved Vendor assessments – such as art or music – We must establish a process to create Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) to measure student progress.

The Ohio Department of Education defines a SLO as a measure of a teacher’s impact on student learning within a given interval of instruction. An SLO is a measurable, long‐term academic goal informed by available data that a teacher or teacher team sets at the beginning of the year for all students or for subgroups of students. The teacher(s) and students work toward the SLO growth targets throughout the year and use interim, benchmark, summative, and formative assessments to assess progress toward the goal. At the end of the year, the teacher(s) meet with a principal to discuss attainment of the SLO and determine the teacher’s impact on student learning.

In Worthington ALL teachers will create a single SLO focusing on vocabulary acquisition of Academic and Content Vocabulary (Tier II & III). This SLO covers a single preparation or content area for the majority of the students the teacher teaches.  We’ve chosen this path because vocabulary acquisition of academic and content vocabulary is a high yield instructional strategy for all students and has it’s highest yield for our targeted student populations.  Likewise, vocabulary acquisitions cuts across all content areas and all grade levels.  Finally, vocabulary acquisition is measurable.

There are several significant challenges that we are working through with implementing SLO’s.  The first is that we would like to have common pre and post assessments at all grades and in all content areas so that student assessment is as reliable and valid as is possible.  Our curriculum leaders are currently in the process of creating the framework for these assessments and will spend much of the spring and summer months working with representative groups of teachers to devise the actual tests.105153b

The second significant challenge with SLO’s has to do with setting the correct growth targets for each child.  The state tells us that growth targets should be informed by baseline or, in some cases, trend data.  They should include specific indicators of growth that demonstrate an increase in learning between two points in time. They should be tiered whenever possible and appropriate and should be set so that all students can demonstrate developmentally appropriate growth.  We agree that All students must be expected to demonstrate growth and that the expectations captured in growth targets should be rigorous yet attainable. And finally we believe growth targets should articulate a specific minimum expected performance.   Determining how this number will be calculated, at least in years one and two, without trend data, is the trick.

While SLO’s present significant challenges, we are excited about the broad-based impact that a district-wide focus on academic and content vocabulary will have on student learning in Worthington.  To learn more about why Worthington has decided to focus on building academemic and content vocabulary see this article from the ASCD.  If you’d like to learn more about how Worthington plans to implement SLO’s, you can view our Powerpoint slide show here.

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