Last school year, many teachers were new to this idea of learning objectives for their students, but as we enter year two, there are several things teachers and administrators should consider when developing SLOs. For one, are all teachers, across all content areas considering how the Common Core Learning Standards can be embedded in their course content? Social Studies teachers shouldn’t just be honing in on the standards associated with their units of study, but rather, should also be considering how writing an argument, or speaking and listening tasks, could play a key role in their course, and in their SLO as well. New York State’s Common Core Learning Standards for both ELA and Math have cross-curricular connections, and teachers should be considering that as they begin with year two of SLO implementation.
Another aspect of SLO development our teachers and building leaders should consider is that of the baseline data that is collected to set growth targets for our students. Should we be looking solely at a pre-assessment score, or should there be other data points that help us to set realistic targets for our vast array of students? Many question the value of a pre-assessment, as it may not set a clear picture of where our students can grow. Consider this in addition to a district-approved pre-assessment: gather multiple data points on a student or students to gauge where students have the potential to grow. An Earth Science teacher may take into consideration student scores on the Grade 8 NYS Science Assessment, in addition to their grades in a living environment course. They may also look at final exam grades from previous science courses. Math courses and prior assessment scores could also be taken into consideration. The more data we have on our students, the more prepared we are to make an educated prediction as to where a student can grow to over the course of the school year.
Student Learning Objectives are not meant to question the level of effectiveness of a teacher, but rather are used to model the true impact a teacher can have on a student’s learning in an academic year. We want our students to show growth in their learning, and what better way to model that growth than tracking their academic successes in a school year.
For those looking for additional resources on the development of high quality SLOs, consider checking out the student learning objectives page on EngageNY (http://www.engageny.org/resource/student-learning-objectives). Collections of webinars and sample SLOs have been added to assist teachers in the second year of SLO implementation.