Student growth rating for teachers based on learning objectives
This story is the second in a three-part series on the continuing development of South Dakota’s model teacher effectiveness system.
Beginning in the 2014-15 school year, South Dakota public school districts will be required to have a teacher effectiveness system in place. Under the model system developed by South Dakota’s Commission on Teaching and Learning (CTL), teachers will receive both a professional practice rating and a student growth rating, which are combined into one summative rating. Districts will have the flexibility to use their own systems of evaluation, as long as they can demonstrate alignment to this model.
The professional practice rating is based on the state’s professional teaching standards known as the South Dakota Framework for Teaching (i.e. Charlotte Danielson model). The teaching standards include 22 components grouped into four domains: 1) Planning and Preparation, 2) Classroom Environment, 3) Instruction, 4) Professional Responsibilities.
When it comes to the student growth rating, the model system relies on student learning objectives.
“While many schools are familiar with the standards for professional practice, the concept of using student learning objectives, or SLOs, in the evaluation process is a new one,” said Abby Javurek-Humig, director of assessment and accountability for the South Dakota Department of Education.
A student learning objective is a teacher-driven goal or set of goals that establish expectations for student academic growth over a period of time. These specific, measurable student learning goals are based on student learning needs and aligned to applicable standards. SLOs reflect a rigorous, yet realistic expectation of student growth that can be achieved during a given instructional period. SLOs must be approved by the principal.
Under the model system, teachers are required to develop a single SLO based on the critical learning needs of students in a particular class or course. For example:
• A second-grade teacher responsible for teaching multiple content areas only needs to create one SLO for one of those content areas.
• A physical education teacher who teaches multiple classes and even multiple grade levels is only required to create one SLO for one class in one grade level.
• A high school math and science teacher need only create one SLO for one class in one content area.
Under the model system, a teacher’s student growth rating is based on a percentage of SLO attainment. A Low Growth rating indicates that a teacher’s SLOs were less than 65 percent attained. An Expected Growth rating indicates a teacher’s SLOs were 65 to 85 percent attained, and a High Growth rating indicates a teacher’s SLOs were 86 to 100 percent attained.
At Fred Assam Elementary, a pilot school in the Brandon Valley School District, teachers and students are excited about SLOs. Some teachers, like Missy Livingston, write the SLO on the board, so students are well aware of the goal they’re working towards.
Livingston teaches second grade and says that the process of developing SLOs has presented a great opportunity for collaboration. She and her fellow second grade teachers chose to develop a grade-level goal. The goal is still unique to each teacher’s students because each second grade class has a slightly different starting point, as determined in this case, by DIBELS scores. Developing a grade-level goal is one option, but teachers can also develop SLOs individually.
“This process encouraged us to work together and figure out a focus for the year,” said Livingston. “We brainstormed about what content area to emphasize, looked at the data, and decided that this goal would really help our students develop a strong foundation in addition and subtraction.“
Livingston and her colleagues know that foundation will be essential when these second graders move on to third grade and delve deeper into multiplication.
“I’ve heard students say, ‘I really think I did better today,’” says Principal Susan Foster. “Students are taking ownership and that is exciting. This whole process, digging down into the data, really looking for that area of student need, is keeping us focused.”
While teachers and administrators were initially apprehensive, Foster says that piloting the teacher effectiveness system has done a great deal to help them see how all the pieces fit together: the Danielson Framework, evaluation, and SLOs.
Livingston agrees: “It’s been a pretty easy transition overall. We’ve had a lot of support from administration in developing the goals and working to obtain them.”