Following up on a post from Bob, Mark Kevesdy explores SLOs in more depth.
The intent of this article is not to provide a complete framework for educators to examine current instructional practices and align them with state mandated Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Rather, this article will provide some clarity as to why educators should value SLOs as a transparent way to validate an individual teacher's impact on student growth.
Student Learning Objectives will have a far-reaching impact on teacher instruction, teacher evaluation, and ultimately student growth. Teachers have the greatest impact on student growth, therefore providing evidence of student growth in the classroom falls on each individual teacher. How successful individual teachers are at implementing SLOs will depend greatly on their own ability to write high quality SLOs and communicate those objectives to school administrators. Furthermore, the SLOs that each teacher writes, monitors, and measures will reflect the ongoing success of each of their students.
Why the need for SLOs?
Individual teachers in all subjects and grades, but in particular non-tested subjects and grades, can demonstrate their impact on student growth through well-written and effectively implemented SLOs. In Measuring Teachers' Contributions to Student Learning Growth for Nontested Grades and Subjects (Research and Policy Brief) by Laura Goe and Lynn Holdheide (2011), the authors stress that there is a "growing need" for measuring each teacher's impact on student learning growth. An emphasis on student growth rather than student mastery will change the focus of teacher evaluations. According to Goe and Holdeide (2011),
"This focus on evaluating teachers by measuring student growth rather than attainment is fairer to teachers whose students enter classrooms well below grade level.... This is not to say that students' mastery of appropriate grade-level standards is unimportant, but moving students as close as possible to proficiency, even if all students are not able to reach it, should be the focus of teachers' efforts. Teachers should be given credit when these efforts succeed, and using multiple measures of student learning growth is essential to ensure that teachers in all subjects and grades are fairly credited." (p. 2&3)
Although value added measures are available for approximately 30% of the teachers, Student Learning Objectives can be used for the non-tested grade levels and subject areas. In addition, some school districts may choose to have teachers write SLOs for subjects and grade levels that currently use the value added measure. Either way, it will be important that teachers understand how to effectively write and use SLOs.
In The Other 69 percent: Fairly Rewarding the Performance of Teachers of Nontested Subjects and Grades by Cynthia Prince et al. (2009), the authors emphasize using "viable options" to assess student growth, especially in non-tested subjects and grades. The authors argue that:
"Identifying highly effective teachers of subjects, grades, and students who are not tested with standardized achievement tests &emdash; such as teachers of art, music, physical education, foreign languages, K-2, high school, English language learners, and students with disabilities &emdash; necessitates a different approach. It is important that states and districts provide viable options for measuring the progress of these groups of students and the productivity of their teachers, both of which contribute to school performance." (p. 1)
The ability to write quality SLOs will have substantial merit, considering that student growth ultimately reflects the teacher's impact on that growth. In the end, it is difficult to separate a teacher's contribution toward student growth and each individual student's actual growth. Clearly, there is a need for teachers of all subjects and grades to better understand how their instructional practices impact student growth and to be able to make informed decisions based on measurable Student Learning Objectives.
What value do SLOs provide educators?
Put simply, Student Learning Objectives provide individual teachers with the ability to measure, reflect upon, and justify their instructional practices. Instructional practices that lead to student growth have value to the student and the community. Additionally, teachers and administrators can rely on a measure that allows for decisions to be made in current learning time. Data that arrives after the learning takes place does not allow educators to inform their decisions for the set of students they are currently teaching. In other words, relying solely on standardized test scores and valued added measures does little to change instructional practices that can impact student learning growth in the here and now. The Ohio Department of Education, (2012) states [emphasis added]:
"Unlike some other measures of teacher effectiveness, all school personnel can set SLOs because the ability to create SLOs in not dependent upon the availability of standardized assessment scores…SLOs enable all educators to demonstrate their impact on student learning and receive recognition for their efforts." (p. 2)
The Student Learning Objective will be the keystone that holds the teacher evaluation process in place and ensures that both teachers and students are held to higher standards of excellence. Teachers can rely on SLO measures because they are "most relevant" for a teacher's content and student population, Ohio Department of Education (2012).
Student Learning Objectives provide teachers and administrators the flexibility to provide relevant evidence to support their instructional practices and control over measuring and evaluating student growth for all teachers.
What have you heard about Student Learning Objectives in your district, and what questions do you have about them?
Goe, L., Holdheid, L. (2011). Measuring Teachers' Contribution to Student Learning Growth for Nontested Grades and Subjects (Research and Policy Brief). Washington, DC: National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality. Retrieved April 9th, 2012 from, http://www.lauragoe.com/LauraGoe/MeasuringTeachersContributions.pdf
Ohio Department of Education (2012). Student Learning Objectives Information. Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved April 10th, 2012 from, http://education.ohio.gov/GD/DocumentManagement/DocumentDownload.aspx?DocumentID=122935
Prince, C. D., Schuermann, P. J., Guthrie, J. W., Witham, P. J., Milanowski, A. T., & Thorn, C. A. (2009). The Other 69 percent: Fairly Rewarding the Performance of Teachers of Nontested Subjects and Grades. Washington, DC: Center for Educator Compensation Reform. Retrieved April 9th, 2012 from, http://www.cecr.ed.gov/guides/other69Percent.pdf