A big change is coming to teacher evaluation systems this year with the introduction of student growth measures. Whether districts choose to use the state’s evaluation model or an approved local alternative, all systems must include a measure of students’ academic progress at the individual teacher level (TAC19§150.1001).
Most districts have chosen the route of student learning objectives (SLOs) to measure academic progress. SLOs are learning goals for students that teachers set based on identified needs. Intensive training for both teachers and evaluators has been going on across the state to prepare for the first roll-out year. SLO models differ in detail and scoring methods but all share the common process of a review of student data and pre-assessment to identify the content focus of SLOs, developing targets for an instructional interval, monitoring progress, and post-assessment.
Training on SLOs is available from regional Education Service Centers and other private and nonprofit organizations. One of these training providers is the Texas Center for Educator Excellence (TxCEE) at Region 18 Education Service Center. TxCEE’s experience with SLOs spans a decade and their model has been implemented in over 100 schools across Texas with positive results. We sat down with TxCEE staff recently to find out what is most important to making the SLO effort successful.
Support for individual teachers is key
Creating high-quality SLOs involves a thorough and multifaceted approach. Supporting teachers during this process is critical and TxCEE offers these suggestions:
- Designate an SLO “expert” on each campus who can provide teachers with timely, individualized support on SLO-related tasks.
- Set time aside during the school day for teachers to work and collaborate on SLOs, especially at the beginning of the school year when they are reviewing data and writing SLOs.
- Provide proper training for all teachers and campus administrators – both initially and ongoing.
- Develop tools and resources to guide teachers through the process and provide them with examples of high-quality SLOs.
Promote assessment literacy and quality
SLO quality relies heavily on assessment quality. For all of the grade levels and subjects that do not have state test data readily available, the teachers bear more responsibility for creating and administering assessments for SLOs. Quality assessments should capture student knowledge at the start and the end of an instructional interval and have enough “spread” to assess knowledge across all levels of student progress. Pre-assessments that are too easy or too difficult will not provide the data teachers need to develop quality SLOs. TxCEE suggests:
- Develop item banks teachers can use when creating assessments.
- Provide training and resources in developing assessment literacy.
- Review assessment instruments and related data to ensure reliability, fairness and validity in measuring the student skills identified in the SLO.
Designate an SLO expert on each campus
Creating SLOs draws upon a wide range of skillsets and knowledge. Some teachers will excel in all areas while others will need assistance with certain tasks. By identifying a designated SLO expert on each campus, teachers can receive timely, individualized support on SLO-related tasks.
Develop or adopt a system for managing SLO data
Teachers need access to both prior and current student data as they develop their SLOs. And, once created, SLOs should be housed in a secure repository that teachers and administrators are able to access. Two options to consider for data storage and retrieval:
- Create your own system. Explore existing district systems for storing and accessing student achievement and performance data. Consider whether these systems may be adapted to house SLOs as well.
- Adopt an SLO data system already developed by outside organizations if developing in-house is not feasible.
In the long run, these supports can reduce frustration with the SLO process and lead to better quality SLOs overall. And better quality SLOs can lead to better student learning outcomes. For more information on TxCEE’s SLO approach, resources and training opportunities, see www.txcee.org.