APPR/Teacher Evaluation, Testing/Assessments and Learning Standards
April 12, 2012

Student Learning Objectives (SLOs): What You Need to Know

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
slo chart

Get ready to learn a lot about a new acronym: SLOs.

If you haven’t already heard about them, you will soon. Starting this fall, Student Learning Objectives, or SLOs, will be used to measure the 20 percent state growth component in teacher evaluation when there is no state assessment available. For 2012-13, that will mean everyone except those teaching grades 4-8 English language arts (ELA) and math - or about 80 percent of the state’s classroom teachers.

An SLO is a teacher’s academic goal for students. SLOs must include baseline performance data for each student, benchmarks to assess progress and growth goal targets. SLOs are supposed to be developed collaboratively between principals and individual teachers, or groups of teachers, and based on objectives aligned to the state’s common core, national or state standards.

A teacher’s effectiveness scores for this first 20 percent component of their evaluation (see chart above) will be based upon the degree to which their SLO goals are attained.

Because the SLO process is being delegated by the state to local districts, districts will make decisions about how SLOs will be implemented locally. As with other aspects of the state 20 percent component, this process is not subject to collective bargaining. If the local and the district decide to use SLOs for the local 20 percent component, the process must be negotiated.

“It’s absolutely critical that every educator understand the process and what’s expected,” said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. It’s also important for districts to have a process in place to identify teachers who will need SLOs, and for teachers to be notified by the end of this school year.

“This will allow teachers time to reflect on their teaching practice and objectives to establish a foundation for creating SLOs the following year,” Neira said. It’s also essential for districts to set realistic timelines for submissions, revisions, data collection and reporting.

Pre-tests should be given after the new school year has begun. This allows a more precise measure, rather than using data from the prior year. Targets would be set after the results of the pre-test are analyzed.

“We believe district processes need to be flexible the first couple of years and allow for adjustments,” Neira said. “SLOs are a work in progress.”

Throughout May, NYSUT will sponsor trainings to familiarize local leaders with SLOs. NYSUT will also continue to provide locals with information and support materials.

The State Education Department has posted a great deal of information on its website, www.engageny.org. SED is also conducting training at the local level this summer via regional network teams. The website includes a guidance document, a “road map,” introductory webinars and a template for teachers to use for writing their SLOs.

Is your district ready?

SED has delegated five critical decision points to school districts:

1. Assess and identify district priorities and academic needs (Target was March 1).

2. Identify which teachers will need SLOs (March 1).

3. Determine district rules for how specific SLOs will get set (March 1).

4. Establish expectations for scoring SLOs and for determining teacher ratings for the growth component (April 16).

5. Determine district-wide processes for setting, reviewing and assessing SLOs (May 31).

SLO requirements

Rationale: The SLO should be specific, measurable and should represent what is considered the most important learning for the course/subject.

Student Population: The student population must be defined.

Learning Content: This should be aligned to common core, state or national standards.

Interval: The instructional time period must be defined. This may be a semester, quarter or year. Teachers of multiple-year subjects could have annual goals.

Baseline: What is the starting level of learning for students in the class? Describe how students performed on the pre-assessment.

• Evidence: What assessment(s) or student work product(s) will be used to measure this goal?

• Targets and scoring: Define the growth goals for student performance. The evaluator and the teacher should both understand what the performance expectations are for HEDI (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing, and Ineffective) rating categories.