1. How do I know what content to focus on?
First, if possible, collaborate with other teachers who teach the same grade/subject/course, so that you are not going through the process in isolation. To determine the priority content for a Student Learning Objective, begin with the curriculum materials that are currently being used in the course to determine what should be taught and what students need to know and be able to do by the end of the grade or course. Refer to grade level content standards, curriculum maps, and units of study, and consider which standards are particularly critical for the grade level or course. You may also find that historical data is useful to determine what content students have needed more support on in past years. If a particular area appears to be a troublesome, it may warrant additional focus in the form of a Student Learning Objective. In addition, Student Learning Objectives may also be informed by district and school priorities and/or building administrator Student Learning Objectives.
2. Can I write absenteeism clauses into my Objective Statement such as, “For those students who are present 80% of the time?”
No, because a Student Learning Objective must include all students on the roster for the course or subject area with which the objective is aligned, and attendance clauses potentially exclude students.
3. How many standards should I include in my Student Learning Objective?
There is no correct number of standards for any teacher to include in their Student Learning Objective. The selection of standards should be strategic and include those that directly apply to the Objective Statement and corresponding Evidence Source. Refer to page 33 in the Rhode Island Model Teacher Evaluation & Support System guidebook for more information on the priority of content.
4. Do I need to include all students for whom I am responsible for in my set of Student Learning Objectives?
Not necessarily. While we aspire for all students for whom a teacher is responsible for to be included in their set of Student Learning Objectives, it is not a requirement for the 2012-13 school year. However, no student enrolled in a grade or course should be excluded from a Student Learning Objective for that grade or course.
5. I teach in a district with high mobility, so my roster often looks different by January than it does in September. How do I set Student Learning Objectives for students that I haven’t even met?
You should set your Student Learning Objectives based upon the students who are on your roster at the beginning of the school year. At mid-year, you and your evaluator should sit down and compare your current roster to the roster upon which the targets were set. If there are substantial differences between your current roster and the roster upon which the targets were set, the targets may need to be adjusted. Students who are added or removed from the roster after mid-year should not contribute to the results of the Student Learning Objective. However, teachers should continue to monitor the progress of any newly added students throughout the remainder of the year.
6. What should I use as baseline data? Do I need to conduct a pre- and post-test for each SLO?
Data that provides an indication of students’ skill or knowledge level at the beginning of the course can be used as baseline data to inform the setting of targets. This could include a teacher-created or commercial assessment and focused on either the current or previous grade’s standards and content.
Baseline data can be used in two primary ways for Student Learning Objectives. The first use is for creating groups of students based upon the baseline results. Separate mastery targets for each group are then set. For this purpose the format of the assessment does not need to match the format of the assessment being used as evidence in the Student Learning Objective. For example, the summative assessment used as evidence may include a performance task, whereas a paper-based test was used to collect a baseline measure of similar skills and content. The second use of baseline data is consistent with the notion of a pre-test/post-test model. In this case baseline data from a pre-test is used to determine the starting point (baseline) for students. The results are then used for comparison purposes when progress is being measured for the Student Learning Objective. In this scenario summative data is compared to the baseline data and the same format of assessment must be used.
In all scenarios baseline data is a must, however, a pre-test/post-test model is not required and, in some cases, would be inappropriate. Again, the function of the baseline assessment is to provide information about where students are starting so that appropriate targets can be set.
7. Do I have to set tiered targets?
No, tiered targets do not need to be set if all students are entering the course with the same level of foundational knowledge and skills, and they are all expected to reach a certain benchmark by the end of the interval of instruction. For example, tiered targets may not apply for teachers of an introductory class or elective in which students rarely enter with foundational knowledge and for which the objective is for all students to acquire a basic set of skills or reach a basic level of proficiency. However, for the majority of classes and courses, students will enter at different levels and tiered targets will be needed in order to ensure that they are appropriately rigorous and attainable for all students.
8. Do the targets in my Student Learning Objective need to include all students in the class?
Yes, a Student Learning Objective must include all students enrolled in that class.
9. Do I have to set mastery or progress-based objectives and targets?
The Student Learning Objective form in EPSS no longer requires educators to specify whether or not they are setting mastery or progress-based objectives and targets, although it is helpful to think about the type when setting the objective and targets. A Student Learning Objective can be written to measure students’ mastery of standards, students’ progress toward standards, or both. They are simply two different ways to think about and measure student learning. Depending on the content, baseline data, and evidence source(s), one type of objective and corresponding targets may be more or less appropriate than the other. For example, if the objective is for students to acquire a set of skills or meet a certain minimum level of proficiency, a mastery objective is the most appropriate. However, if the objective is for students to make a certain amount of progress on a continuum, such as reading level, a progress objective is the most appropriate. In some cases, it might make sense to set a mastery target for some students (75% of students will meet proficiency) and a progress target for others (25% of students will improve their performance by two or more levels on the rubric from the baseline to the final assessment).
10. Why does the Student Learning Objective form ask me to check whether my Evidence Source is High, Medium, or Low standardization?
The standardization of evidence is used in determining the documentation needed to score Student Learning Objectives. Student Learning Objectives that make use of highly standardized assessments require fewer sources of documentation than those that rely upon less standardized assessments.
High standardization indicates that the assessment is administered and scored in a standardized and objective manner, like an AP exam. Medium standardization means that the assessment has some elements of standardization but may also have an element of subjectivity in the scoring. An example of this might be the DRA or District Common Assessments. Low standardization means that the assessment is created independently by a teacher or a teacher-team.
It is important to understand that a highly standardized assessment does not necessarily indicate a high-quality assessment. Standardized assessments vary in their quality and might not be the right fit for your objective statement. The quality of an assessment depends on many criteria, including its purpose, intended vs. actual use, and grade level appropriateness. There are many instances in which a standardized assessment tests a broad array of information that does not showcase student learning as it directly pertains to your objective statement. Also, many teachers have high-quality assessments they have crafted themselves. However, to promote rigor and objectivity, RIDE encourages teachers to collaborate, co-develop and share assessments, and to norm and score together. If an evaluator sees that you have included a highly standardized assessment in your Student Learning Objective he or she might check-in with you to ensure it will give you all the information you need. Similarly, if you include an assessment of low standardization an evaluator might ask for you to provide more documentation and include the rubric to better understand the evidence source.
11. Can Student Learning Objective be revised mid-year?
At the Mid-Year Conference, the educator and their evaluator will review available student learning data and reexamine the Student Learning Objective to determine if adjustments should be made. Adjustments may be made if:
- Based on new information gathered since they were set, objectives fail to address the most important learning challenges in the classroom or school.
- New, more reliable sources of evidence are available.
- Class compositions have changed significantly.
- Teaching schedule or assignment has changed significantly.
12. Is there guidance around whether or not to include student data at the end of the year for students who are not present for the full year?
There is no minimum number of days that a student must be present in order for their data to be included. However, students added to an educator’s roster after the mid-year or who are no longer on an educator’s roster at the end of the interval of instruction (e.g., quarter, semester, year) should not be included in the final compilation of results for a Student Learning Objective.
For students with chronic absenteeism who are not progressing as expected, educators should include applicable student attendance data (e.g., five students were chronically absent for more than 50% of class time) as part of the evidence for a Student Learning Objective. The process for scoring individual Student Learning Objectives begins with a review of the evidence, and the evaluator should consider relevant student attendance data when scoring an individual Student Learning Objective as Exceeded, Met, Nearly Met, or Not Met. Additionally, the Mid-Year Conference represents an opportunity to revise the supports and interventions in place to help student(s) who are not progressing as expected, and accelerate their progress.
13. How do I choose which classes to write Student Learning Objectives for if I teach multiple courses?
Some teachers, especially at the secondary level, teach multiple courses. The teacher and the evaluator should make decisions together about which area(s) of their teaching assignment to focus their Student Learning Objectives. Generally, teachers should focus Student Learning Objectives on courses in which they teach the most students in their teaching assignment, and courses in which there are areas of need.
14. If I teach a course that does not last a full year do I still set Student Learning Objectives?
Yes, all teachers need to set at least two Student Learning Objectives, but the timeline should be condensed to match the duration of the course. Teachers can either set an Student Learning Objective that applies across groups of students and aggregate results to measure attainment (e.g., a year-long Student Learning Objective that combines fall and spring semester students for the full year), or set Student Learning Objectives that apply to a single semester or a shorter interval of instruction (e.g., quarters).
15. Can I write two Student Learning Objectives for fall semester and not have any for the spring?
No, a set of Student Learning Objectives cannot be set for just one half of the school year and not the other. The intent is for SLOs to document the impact that teachers are making on student learning throughout the year and not just part of the year.
16. If I teach a semester-long class twice in the year (fall, spring), can I repeat the same Student Learning Objective in two different semesters and just change the targets?
No, for a teacher who teaches the same course multiple times in the year they should tier the targets for separate semesters and include differing baseline data, if applicable. If the teacher does not yet know what the second semester students’ baselines will be, they should write the most appropriate targets for those students by referring to historical data from similar groups of students. The teacher should write at least one other Student Learning Objective with a different content focus.
17. How do Student Learning Objectives connect to the Common Core?
Student Learning Objectives should be aligned to state and national standards, including the Rhode Island GSEs/GLEs and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics. Rhode Island schools and districts are in the process of transitioning to the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, in preparation for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment. If a teacher is currently teaching in a school or district that has already transitioned to the CCSS for his or her grade level, the Student Learning Objectives should be aligned to the CCSS. If a teacher is teaching in a grade level that has not transitioned, or in a content area not covered by the CCSS, he or she should align the Student Learning Objectives to the RI GSEs/GLEs or other national standards.
18. Is it acceptable that my department or my grade-level team has decided to share a Student Learning Objective?
Absolutely, the practice of collaboration and sharing of objectives by teams of educators (e.g., 2nd grade team, 9th grade ELA teachers, or Science Dept.) in the Student Learning Objective writing process is encouraged whenever possible. However, identical Student Learning Objectives cannot be used by teams of teachers unless they are co-teachers of the same students. Teams of teachers who are sharing a Student Learning Objective might have the same language in most sections, but must have distinct baseline data results and corresponding targets accounting for the students on their class roster.
19. What if I am the sole teacher for a particular grade and subject combination? Should I set Student Learning Objectives alone?
The practice of setting Student Learning Objectives in isolation is not a recommended practice. If a teacher does not have a team with which to develop Student Learning Objectives, they are encouraged to collaborate with teachers of the same course across the district or with teachers of other grades/content areas within their school. Though these teachers might teach different content, they may be able to assist in reviewing baseline data, identifying priority content areas, creating high-quality assessments, or administering and scoring the evidence.
20. What if I teach a course that cannot be aligned to my building administrator’s Student Learning Objectives?
A teacher’s Student Learning Objectives should be aligned to the building administrator’s Student Learning Objectives when they pertain to the content and grade levels taught. For example, if the administrator has set a Student Learning Objective for elementary mathematics and a teacher is responsible for elementary mathematics, at least one of the teacher’s Student Learning Objectives should be aligned with the administrator’s. In other cases, the connection is less obvious but can usually be made. For example, consider an art teacher whose building administrator set a Student Learning Objective around writing. The art teacher could write a Student Learning Objective that incorporates and supports writing within the art curriculum (writing in response to works of art, journaling as part of the creative process, etc.). If a teacher feels that there is no logical connection between the content of their course and the content of their administrator’s Student Learning Objective, he or she should first work with other teachers of the same subject to consider options. The teacher should also reach out to their evaluator to determine a solution.
21. Can a building administrator set a Student Learning Objective that teachers have to adopt as their own?
A building administrator is ultimately responsible for approving the Student Learning Objectives for the teachers on their case load and can require teachers to adopt certain elements of a Student Learning Objective, including the objective statement, standards, and evidence source. However, certain elements of a Student Learning Objectives must be differentiated for the teacher’s specific assignment and students. The targets, for example, should be set based on the students’ specific baseline data.
22. What if I teach one course but my main responsibilities are administrative (such as a Department Chair or Librarian)? Will I be evaluated as a teacher, including Student Learning Objectives, even though my teaching assignment is only a small portion of my job?
Educators whose main responsibility is not teaching, but who do teach a course, should discuss with their evaluator which evaluation model makes the most sense based upon their role and responsibilities.
23. Can I use the same Student Learning Objective as last year, even if I have different students?
If an educator is teaching the same course and the objective statement remains a critical focus of the student learning in that class, teachers are encouraged to continue working with a Student Learning Objective from the previous year. Teachers should revisit any previously used Student Learning Objective at the beginning of each interval of instruction to make any necessary revisions, including, updating baseline data and targets for the students currently in that class.