SLO Target Approaches

There are many great ways to approach the SLO process from individual teacher SLOs to grade level or department SLOs and even school or district wide SLOs.  Though the process of writing and using the SLO is definitely  gaining much momentum in public schools across the United States, the way the goals are designed and implemented seems to vary significantly from district to district.  Four common implementation techniques are explained below with examples as well as a look into the benefits and drawbacks.

Option A: The School-Wide Target

aka: The “All In” Goal, The Collective Goal, The District Wide or Building Wide Goal

What is it?  This is when the entire school or district sets a single goal for all students in a selected population.  All teachers are held accountable for progress toward this goal.

For Example?

The district has a small team of school administrators and teacher leaders examine data for a specific school and set a target for all.  The target is:  All students in grades 2-8 will reach Reading growth targets, based on normative growth and set by NWEA, on the NWEA Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test from the fall to spring assessment windows.

Excellent: 100%-80% make goal Proficient: 79%-60% make goal, etc.

Logistics: Students take the MAP in the fall, NWEA sets targets based on national norms and students take the MAP again in the Spring.  NWEA shares a report which indicates the percent of enrolled students who made their targets by the spring administration.  72% of students made the target, therefore all teachers in the school get an proficient for this portion of the evaluation.

SLO Needed?

Not usually.  Since everyone has the same goal and it includes all students in the whole school, there is not a reason to explain who is on the SLO roster, instructional interval or even instructional strategies.  

NOTE: Legal  advice–If a school or district is holding faculty accountable for reaching goals in particular subjects, be sure the curriculum & scope and sequence indicate how the teacher improves learning in that subject (ex: Reading in PE class)

  • Pros
  • Collective goal means ALL teachers working toward a single goal
  • Less work for admin & teachers as all have a single goal
  • Can be less “buy in” from staff as the goals are not “owned” by teachers but rather written by an outside entity and then enforced for all
  • Different curriculums have different impacts on learning and none of this is measured by this technique
  • Different teachers have different impacts on learning and individual teacher impact is not measured by this technique
  • The same score for all teachers essentially makes this portion of the evaluation a “wash”
  • Cons
  • Collective goal leads to animosity from teachers who believe they are “pulling more weight”
  • Teachers who do not explicitly teach the subject measured (ex Art teacher measured by Reading) are often frustrated that this is non-applicable to their teaching/rating
  • Can be less “buy in” from staff as the goals are not “owned” by teachers but rather written by an outside entity and then enforced for all
  • Different curriculums have different impacts on learning and none of this is measured by this technique
  • Different teachers have different impacts on learning and individual teacher impact is not measured by this technique
  • The same score for all teachers essentially makes this portion of the evaluation a “wash”

Option B: The Department/Grade Level Target

aka: The Professional Learning Community (PLC) Goal

What is it?  This is when the entire team of teachers shares a single goal for shared curriculum and Type I or II common assessment set.   The grade level or department PLC will share d
ata, and set a goal for all students enrolled in a class or course.   The SLO roster is the same for all students; the SLO roster includes ALL students enrolled in the course.  All teachers who are teaching this class/course are held accountable for progress toward this goal.

For Example?

The science department examines current and historical student data and sets a goal which will be applicable to all students enrolled in the Chemistry course.  Students enrolled in Chemistry will grow 43 percentage points or more on the Chemistry Skill Assessment set by the end of first semester.  

Excellent: 100%-80% make goal Proficient: 79%-60% make goal, etc. 

Logistics: The team of Chemistry teachers look at historical data and determine typical and expected growth parameters for their course.  All students enrolled in Chemistry take the baseline, and the team of all chemistry teachers looks at all 7 sections of Chemistry scores as well as historical data.  The team sets a goal for all students collectively, regardless which teacher the student is assigned to.  Students take the posttest at the end of the first semester and the teachers are scored based on the percentage of students in all 7 sections (all students enrolled in the course) that met the target.  In this example, 87% of students made the target, therefore all chemistry teachers get an excellent for this portion of the evaluation.

SLO Needed?

Typically yes.  The department completes the SLO as a group so the SLO roster is identified (who is enrolled in the course), the assessment is identified, etc.

  • Pros
  • Collective data analysis by PLC team. Collective goal means ALL teachers on a time are working toward a single goal–more shared resources through PLC and possibly improved PLC function.
  • Students in other teacher’s classrooms affect a teacher’s evaluation rating.
  • Less work for admin & teachers as all within the department or grade level have a single goal
  • Possibly better data. Historical growth data is pooled and therefore trend data is indicative of all learning in the course regardless of who was teaching. This is opposed to individuals writing goals in isolation where teachers are comparing their progress to only their own historical growth. Thus, a great teacher always sets goals for great growth…but a weaker teacher may only set goals for continued weak growth.
  • Potentially more “buy in” from staff than the school wide goals as the goals are “owned” by department teams.
  • The same score for all teachers essentially makes this portion of the evaluation a “wash” for teachers within the same department
  • Cons
  • Collective goal can lead to animosity from teachers who believe they are “pulling more weight.” Integrity of PLC can be shaken.
  • Students in other teacher’s classrooms affect a teacher’s evaluation rating.
  • Some teachers may feel department goal does not align with their goal(s) for students.
  • Different teachers have different impacts on learning and individual teacher impact is not measured by this technique
  • The same score for all teachers essentially makes this portion of the evaluation a “wash” for teachers within the same department
  • The same score for all teachers essentially makes this portion of the evaluation a “wash” for teachers within the same department

Option C:  The Department (Grade) Level Target with Individual Teacher Rosters

aka: The PLC designed Goal with individual SLO Rosters.

What is it?  This is when the entire team of teachers in the same PLC shares data on the same Type I or II assessment set.  This historical data is used to set a standard of growth goals for the entire class or course.  The SLO roster consists only of students in a single teacher’s classroom.

For Example?

Students enrolled in Mrs. Brown’s Chemistry Class will grow 43 percentage points or more on the Chemistry Skill Assessment set by the end of first semester.  

Excellent: 100%-80% make goal Proficient: 79%-60% make goal, etc.science

Logistics: The team of Chemistry teachers look at historical data and determine typical and expected growth parameters for their course.  All students enrolled in Chemistry take the baseline.  The individual teacher examines pretest data for his/her students, and using the parameters set by the department or PLC team, the teacher sets goals for students in his/her classes.  Students take the posttest at the end of the first semester and the teachers are scored based on the percentage of students in his/her sections that met the target.  In this example, 82% of Mrs. Brown’s students made the target, therefore Mrs. Brown gets an excellent for this portion of the evaluation.  In another Chemistry classroom, 73% of Mr. Smith’s students make the target and Mr. Smith gets a proficient for this portion of the evaluation.

SLO Needed?

Yes.  The department will have many sections of the SLO that are identical (assessment tool, learning goal, etc.)  However, the teachers will each have portions that are unique (SLO Roster, Instructional Strategies)  

  • Pros
  • Collective data analysis by PLC team
  • Better data. Historical growth data is pooled and therefore trend data is indicative of all learning in the course regardless of who was teaching. This is opposed to individuals writing goals in isolation where teachers are comparing their progress to only their own historical growth. Thus, a great teacher always sets goals for great growth…but a weaker teacher may only set goals for continued weak growth.
  • Potentially more “buy in” from staff than the school wide goals as the goals are “owned” by department teams.
  • Potentially less work for admin & teachers as all within the department or grade level have a single parameter for goal writing
  • This method highlights teachers with higher percentages of students making departmentally shared targets
  • Some teachers may feel department goal or expectations does not align with their goal(s) for students.
  • Cons
  • Collective data analysis by PLC team
  • Better data. Historical growth data is pooled and therefore trend data is indicative of all learning in the course regardless of who was teaching. This is opposed to individuals writing goals in isolation where teachers are comparing their progress to only their own historical growth. Thus, a great teacher always sets goals for great growth…but a weaker teacher may only set goals for continued weak growth.
  • Potentially more “buy in” from staff than the school wide goals as the goals are “owned” by department teams.
  • Potentially less work for admin & teachers as all within the department or grade level have a single parameter for goal writing
  • This method highlights teachers with higher percentages of students making departmentally shared targets
  • Some teachers may feel department goal or expectations does not align with their goal(s) for students.

Option D: Individual Teacher Targets

aka: Independent SLOs

What is it?  This is when an individual teacher writes a goal in isolation.  Historical data is still likely used to set a standard of growth, but it is typically only the individual teacher’s historical data.   The SLO roster consists only of students in a single teacher’s classroom.

For Example?

Students enrolled in Mr. Dent’s Art Class will grow 2 tiers on the rubric on the Fine Arts Performance Assessment Rubric by the end of the first semester.  

Excellent: 100%-80% make goal Proficient: 79%-60% make goal, etc.

Logistics: Mr. Dent will review historical data with his art performance assessment when available and set typical growth expectations.  Students will take the pretest and Mr. Dent will examine pretest scores and determine what would be ambitious and realistic growth.  Mr. Dent sets growth targets for students.  Students take the post test in January.   In this portion of the evaluation, Mr. Dent had 75% of students making the target and earned a proficient in this segment of the evaluation.  His expectations are not aligned with any other art teacher expectations nor is his data compared to other teachers in the department/PLC TEAM.

SLO Needed?

Yes.  Each teacher will likely have a different SLO.  Some elements may be the same (ex:  learning goal may be the same across several teachers with the same course), but not necessarily all of the elements.  The baseline data, SLO roster and instructional strategies will be unique to this teacher.

  • Pros
  • Less complex data warehousing; individual teachers tracking individual scores
  • Individual autonomy and freedom to pursue goals
  • Potentially more “buy in” from staff than the school wide goals as the goals are “owned” by individual teachers.
  • More goals for evaluators to approve (individual vs. PLC or all in)
  • Cons

  • More difficulty maintaining consistency between administrator approved goals as what entails “rigorous” or “realistic”
  • Less PLC team data analysis
  • Can lead to questionable data conclusions. Historical growth data is only individual, and therefore trend data is indicative of only learning with this individual teacher. Thus, teachers are comparing their progress to only their own historical growth. Thus, a great teacher always sets goals for great growth…but a weaker teacher may only set goals for continued weak growth.
  • More goals for evaluators to approve (individual vs. PLC or all in)
Anne Weerda
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Anne Weerda

This article was written by Kids at the Core founder, Anne Weerda.

Anne is an assessment and curriculum specialist best known for her work in assessment design, data analysis and instructional effectiveness. Anne is a sought after speaker in the area of assessment design, curriculum and instruction.
Anne Weerda
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