May 2012 Issue
April 16, 2012

What you need to know about SLOs

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT United

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) 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, 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.