Monday, November 25, 2013

Student Growth Percentiles

            Student growth percentiles allow us to look at student performance over time, relative to peers. SGP's are a number ranging from 1 through 99, with the higher the number meaning better performance. NJDOE recommends that student growth should be between the 35th and the 65th percentile, for average growth. Student growth percentile is calculated by comparing a student’s achievement that of his academic peers. Furthermore, academic peers are students throughout the state with similar test score histories. For instance, in the state of New Jersey students with similar NJASK test score histories are considered academic peers. Student growth percentiles do not take into account for any demographic factors such as gender or ethnicity, or specific programs such as English language learners or students with disabilities when identifying academic peers. However, academic peers are in the same grade, took the same tests (such as the NJASK), and have achieved similar results on past tests.
            Furthermore, student growth percentiles look at how similar students change to find what typical growth is for a group of students. It allows us to find students who are making fast/more progress and students who are making slower/less progress. From there, it also allows us to investigate what is and isn’t working for students. 
            Over the years states may change their tests, resulting in the question, “Can we still compare test scores across years if the tests change?” The answer is yes. Luckily, student growth percentiles do not require identical tests or scales every year. This is because they measure normative growth, meaning that students are being compared tot heir academic peers taking the same assessment making the calculation reliable.
            It has been proposed by NJ Department of Education officials that the New Jersey Student Growth Percentile measures to be used for evaluating teachers and principals and rating local public schools. The NJDOE proposed tat NJ student growth percentiles be used as a major component for determining teacher effectiveness as well, having consequences for employment if rating are low. It has been revealed that Student Growth Percentiles are “not designed for inferring teacher influence on student outcomes,” they “do not control for various factors outside of the teacher’s control,” they’re “not backed by research on estimating teacher effectiveness. By contrast, research on SGPs has shown them to be poor at isolating teacher influence,” and NJ SGP measures, “at the school level, are significantly statistically biased with respect to student population characteristics and average performance level.”

“Using Student Growth Percentiles,” NJ Smart Education Data System.
State of Washington OSPI.
Deconstructing Disinformation on Student Growth Percentiles & Teacher Evaluation in New Jersey. Student Finance 101.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Student Growth Objectives

     The 2012 tenure and evaluation law, also known as Teach NJ, required that teacher evaluation be based on both teacher practice, through the use of an approved instrument (Danielson, Marzano etc.), and student achievement. In regards to student achievement, this act requires that all teachers choose valid and reliable assessments, set starting points for students and write measurable Student Growth Objectives with the approval of their principals or supervisors.
     So exactly what are Student Growth Objectives, better known as SGOs? Scott Marion, of the Center for Assessment, defined SGOs as a “general approach whereby educators establish goals for individuals or groups of students (in conjunction with administrators) and then evaluate the extent to which the goals have been achieved.” (Marion, 2012) SGOs serve two key instructional goals: 1)They allow teachers to set student goals at the beginning of the school year by determining individual strengths and weaknesses. 2) They enable teachers to adjust instruction throughout the year based on student learning.
     This school year (2013-2014), all instructional teaching staff who receive a student growth percentile score based on the NJASK (grades 4-8 language arts and math teachers) will be required to complete at least one SGO. All other teaching staff will be required to complete two SGOs. Regardless of whether a teacher completes one or two, the SGOs will account for 15% of their total summative evaluation.
     There are five steps to developing a quality student growth objective and each should be completed within a particular time frame. (NJEA – September 2013) However after personally completing the process, I believe there are six. These steps are:
1. Choosing or developing a quality measurement tool that is aligned to applicable standards
2. Determining students’ starting points.(September)
3. Setting ambitious, yet achievable student growth objectives. (September – November)
4. Completing the state mandated SGO forms (November 15th this calendar year – October 15th
 –subsequent years)
5. Tracking progress and refining instruction accordingly. (ongoing –refining/revision completed by
February 15th)
6. Reviewing results of assessments and scoring the SGO. (May/June)
     First, the teacher must begin by identifying the most important content or skills from his/her course or class. Then he/she must determine how it will be measured. The measurement tool can take a variety of formats. It does not have to be something brand new or something that is purchased. If a district has an assessment or a set of assessments that it has used, it makes sense to use these and simply apply them to the SGO process.
     Next, the teacher must collect data about his/her students. The goal here is to collect the highest quality data possible, with an emphasis on more date rather than less. (NJEA – September 2013).
     Once a teacher has created an assessment to measure student growth and gathered enough information to make sufficient judgments about his/her students’ current academic performance, the next step is to create the SGO. There are four types of SGOs: a general goal, a general-tiered goal, a specific goal focused on a group of students, or a specific goal based on particular content or skills from the class.
     To develop a general SGO, a teacher must determine a score on the final assessment that indicates considerable learning. Then he/she must determine the percentage of the class that number of students represents, and create a 10-15 percent range around that number. In the tiered method, a teacher must group his/her students according to ability. Since students are beginning the year in different places, they might all grow a significant amount, yet show different scores on the final assessment. Once the teacher determines the score for each subgroup then a simple mean is found.
     SGOs can also be more specific. These specific based SGOs can be geared to a particular population in the class or be developed around specific skills or course content. These too would be scored in a similar fashion as the general and tiered goal SGOs.
     After the SGO has been developed a teacher must monitor student progress by using formative assessment and adjusting his/her instruction accordingly. If a teacher suspects that his/her students are not progressing in a way that will lead to the achievement of the SGO, there is an opportunity for revision. This must be done by February 15th and requires the signature of the chief school administrator.
     Finally, once the ending assessment has been scored, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to score the SGO. This should be a collaborative event and can be done as part of the annual summative conference.
     There are many advantages to Student Growth Objectives. Some of the positive aspects of SGOs are: 

1. The active involvement of the teacher throughout the process is a key advantage of the SGO approach over strictly traditional test-centered approaches to accountability.
2. SGOs are good instructional practice. They are designed to reflect and incentivize good teaching practices such as setting clear learning targets, differentiating instruction for students, monitoring students’ progress toward these targets and evaluating the extent to which students have met the targets.
3. SGOs are adaptable. They are flexible and can be adjusted or revisited based on changes in standards, curriculum or assessments or shifts in student population and student needs.
4. SGOs can be used not only in the case of individual teachers, but also with groups of teachers or the whole faculty. A group of teachers all in the same subject area, grade or district can use the same SGO. Entire school faculties can pursue the same objective, individually or collectively, setting expectations for student achievement that all teachers and school personnel share.
5. SGOs may help educators buy more positively in to State and district evaluation systems. SGO’s are grounded in the work done by teachers with their students in their classroom. Because SGOs are most often developed through principal-teacher collaboration, they reinforce the credibility of the evaluation process and build ownership for student results among both teachers and principals.
     As noted, SGOs can be a high payoff instructional practice. They can be used to measure student learning and ultimately teacher effectiveness especially when using them as part of the teachers’ evaluation system. However, these benefits may come as a cost to school districts throughout New Jersey. Some of the challenges school districts may face incorporating SGOs are:
1. Developing and monitoring SGOs is time-consuming and difficult. Both teachers and administrators will be forced to spend a great deal of time writing, reviewing, revising and monitoring these SGOs. This time could be spent preparing lessons, working with students and teachers, and completing other essential obligations.
2. SGO development and assessment development will be new practices that will require a great deal of support. As with the implementation of any new practice, districts will need to provide numerous Professional Development opportunities for their teachers. This will require not only money but time. Both teachers and administrators will need to be trained on such things as how to write high-quality SGOs, assessment development, and analyzing student data.
3. It is hard to ensure the quality of SGOs and the assessments used to measure student learning. Without question, it will be difficult to ensure consistency across classrooms, let alone school districts.
4. In spite of any educational value, SGOs are tied to a high-stakes evaluation system and misinformation combined with misunderstanding can lead to unintended negative consequences.
     The November 15th deadline has passed for all New Jersey elementary and secondary teachers to comply with the Teach NJ Act. All SGOs should be written, approved and underway. Now teachers in New Jersey must concentrate on: demonstrating and teaching their content knowledge, creating meaningful and purposeful lessons, motivating their students, helping their students reach their fullest potential and reach their final goal line. As these essential teaching practices are underway, the fulfillmentof SGOs are inevitable. However, only time and research will truly determine the effectiveness of this new practice.

Scott Marion, Charles DePascale, Chris Domaleski, Brian Gong, Elena Diaz-Bilello (2012) Paper -Considerations for Analyzing Educators' Contributions to Student Learning in Non-tested Subjects and Grades with a focus on Student Learning Objectives/Student Growth Objectives. Retrieved from the National Center for Assessment, November 2013, from paper discusses the many challenges of measuring student academic growth for teacher evaluations in non-tested subjects and grades, while offering potential solutions for incorporating student performance results in these evaluations. The paper addresses ... M/Stt
Quality Instruction.Org - Paper - -  The Value of Student Learning Objectives to Measure Teacher Impact on Student Growth (May 24, 2012) -Retrieved from the The Fab Formatives blog November 9,2013
John Mooney (March  2013) NJ Spotlight- Fine Print: Overview of Measure for Tracking “Growth” Retrieved from November 9, 2013
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013) Achieve New Jersey for Teachers: Student Growth Objectives. Retrieved from
Richard Wilson NJEA staff - NJEA (2013) OMG I have to create my SGOs Retrieved from: (November 1, 2013)
Nicole Haldeman           
AchieveNJ came in part due to the changes set forth by the Teacher Effectiveness and Accountability for the Children of New Jersey (TEACHNJ) (Act, P.L. 2012, c. 26). TeachNJ explained in broad definitions how the NJ educator evaluation system should look and how the tenure process will change and be linked to educator evaluations. AchieveNJ, implemented in the 2013-2014 school year, actually provides the necessary details and structure to allow TeachNJ to function effectively. AchieveNJ aims to promote student achievement by focusing on the development of teachers through meaningful feedback and support.  
AchieveNJ’s evaluation and support system has multiple principles that were utilized during its creation to ensure that it functions as planned; 1. Educator effectiveness should be measured to make sure students have great teachers, 2. Evaluations should be based on learning outcomes and effective practice, 3. Timely feedback and high quality professional development help educators to make improvements, 4. Input from educators must guide the development of effective evaluation and support systems, and 5. Tenure and other types of recognition need to be based on effectiveness. These principles come together to form the details and support structures that make up AchieveNJ.
When evaluating teachers, AchieveNJ focuses on multiple measures that take into
account student achievement and teacher practice. For teachers of tested grades/subjects,
30% of their evaluation comes from Student Growth Percentiles (SGP). SGP’s measure 4th-8th grade student achievement in Language Arts Literacy and Mathematics (these are “tested grades and subjects”). These scores are compared to the individual student’s scores from the previous year as well as the student’s academic peers throughout the state. Student Growth Objectives (SGO) are set by teachers, pending approval from their principals, at the beginning of each school year. Teachers must set at least 1 SGO per student. They are assessed on whether the students meet their SGO's by the end of the year. Teachers of non-tested grades and subjects are required to set at least 2 SGO's per student and whether the student meets their SGO’s counts for 15% of their evaluation.
The second area taken into account during evaluations is teacher practice. This is assessed by how well teachers perform on a teacher practice instrument, such as the Danielson, primarily during classroom observations. Non-tenured teachers have three required classroom observations. In their first two years these are composed of two long observations (40 minutes in length) and one short observation (20 minutes in length), and in their third and fourth year they will receive one long and two short observations. Similarly, tenured teachers will also receive three observations, although these are all short observations. All teachers regardless of tenure status must have at least one announced observation with a pre-conference and at least one unannounced observation. Whether or not the third observation is announced in left up to the superintendent to decide.
In addition to teachers, principals are also evaluated in the terms set forth in AchieveNJ. Principals are evaluated and given a rating based on 5 components, or 4 if there school does not receive SGP scores. These components and there weights in the principal evaluation are: 1. Principal Practice (30%)- job-specific actions that are required to lead a school, 2.  Evaluation Leadership (20%)- how successful one is at implementing the new evaluation system, 3. Teacher Student Growth Objectives (10%)- the average score of all the SGO’s, 4. School-wide Student Growth Percentile (Multi-Grade SGP-30%/Non-SGP-0%/Single Grade SGP-20%)- median SGP score of the students within the principals building, and 5. Principal Goals (Multi-Grade SGP-10%/Non-SGP-40%/Single Grade SGP-20%)- SMART goals developed to address the specific needs of the school.
Teacher and principal tenure is affected by the adoption of the new teacher evaluation system. For both teachers and principals, four years must be completed before they become eligible for tenure. For new teachers to earn tenure they must be rated as either effective or highly effective in two of the three subsequent years. For new principals/vice-principals/asst. principals, they must be rated as either effective or highly effective in two annual summative evaluations within the first three years of employment, with their first effective rating being on or after the completion of the second year. For teachers and principals who are already tenured, the ability to lose tenure relies on their evaluations. If teachers or principals are rated as ineffective or partially ineffective for two consecutive years they will be charged with inefficiency and may lose tenure.
AchieveNJ aims to provide an evaluation system that recognizes and rewards those teachers and principals who are effective. By providing teachers and principals a tool to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses they are better able to choose meaningful professional development and to grow in their profession. The end goal of AchieveNJ and TeachNJ is to provide a high-quality education to all of the students in NJ schools by teachers and leaders being held to high and measurable standards. There are many positives to AchieveNJ, however, despite this, there can also be potential negatives. 
Some of the drawbacks to Achieve NJ are starting to become evident during this school year. When tenure relies heavily on student performance on standardized testing teachers may be more opt to “teach to the test” in order to ensure that students receive adequate scores. Although this method of teaching is not inherently “bad”, it does not leave room for other meaningful and enjoyable subjects to be taught in class, nor do teachers have the time for students to do exploratory learning of other topics not covered in standardized tests. Tenure now also heavily relies on a teacher’s observations, which assess how well they are able to perform inside the classroom. The issue in this lies in that some observations may come down to a matter of opinion and could be subject to bias. Due to this, it is vital for a person to receive their observations from multiple people to lessen the chances of bias and opinion. In addition to this, there is little information in how support staff, CST members, and guidance will be observed and how they will create SGO's. As of now, there is little information regarding this group of people. The biggest drawback to AchieveNJ is simply the time that implementing SGO's requires. The time spent creating SGO's could be used for lesson planning and creating tiered learning, both of which are extremely beneficial to students. As time goes on, many of these issues may be sorted out, until then there are a lot of unanswered questions regarding the implementation and future of AchieveNJ. 

AchieveNJ: Teach. Lead. Grow.. (n.d.). AchieveNJ: Teach. Lead. Grow.. Retrieved November 17, 2013, from

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


In 2010, the New Jersey Department of Education started its mission to improve educator evaluation and supports. A two-year pilot program started as a result of this. In 2012, state legislators and Governor Christie unanimously signed TEACHNJ, a tenure reformbill. On March 6, 2013, AchieveNJ was unanimously approved by state legislators and Governor Christie with the support of the New Jersey Department of Education. The premise behind AchieveNJ is that both educators and students deserve more than what was previously in place. It recognizes what educators have done, rewards them for their efforts, and provides them with tools and support for continued success. A guiding principle of AchieveNJ is that educational effectiveness can and should be measured to help ensure that New Jersey students have the best teachers. Evaluations under AchieveNJ will be based on multiple measures – learning outcomes and effective practice. These observations will be conducted by appropriately trained observers. Professional development will aim to help teachers improve their practice by being of high-quality and tied to each teacher’s evaluation. AchieveNJ aimed to have evaluation and support systems that were developed largely by educators. In conjunction with TEACHNJ, AchieveNJ aims to tie tenure to teacher effectiveness.
Every teacher’s summative rating will be comprised from teacher practice and student achievement. The weighting of each depends on the grade and subject matter taught. ELA and math teachers for grades 4 through 8 will have the following breakdown for weighting of teacher evaluation: 55% teacher practice and 45% student achievement (broken down into 15% student growth objectives and 30% student growth percentile). Teachers who do not teach ELA and math for grades 4-8 will have a rating 85% based on teacher practice and 15% student achievement as measured with student growth objectives. Teacher practice is measured by a minimum of three observations per year. The length of each observation varies by whether or not the teacher has tenure. Each teacher must have at least one unannounced observation and one announced observation. Student achievement is measured using Student Growth Objectives (SGOs) and Student Growth Percentile (SGP). SGOs are set by a teacher with the help of his or her principal or supervisor at the beginning of the school year (by November 15th for the 2013-14 school year). SGOs are academic goals for groups of students. SGOs can be measured using NJASK, national standardized tests, and district-made tests and portfolios. AchieveNJ gives the following example of an SGO: “All students increase at least one proficiency level on the Text Reading and Comprehension (TRC) assessment.” The teacher receives a rating of one through four based on the percentage of students who met this objective. SGOs should not be the same as IEP goals but can be used in the development of SGOs. For co-teachers, the SGOs may be the same. Adjustments to SGOs, as long as they are approved, can be made up until February 15th for this school year. Teachers and supervisors must meet at the end of the school year to discuss SGOs. SGP shows the growth of a student’s NJASK scores from one year to the next. The SGP is compared to the gains that the student’s academic peers, students with similar academic history, achieve on the NJASK across the state. Teachers of tested grades and subjects will have a median SGP, which falls between 0 and 99, for all of their qualifying students and a four-level scale of effectiveness will be used. All teachers must be trained on these new evaluation methods prior to beginning the school year.
Principals, Vice Principals, and Assistant Principals will be evaluated based on practice and student achievement. Practice will be evaluated based on their principal practice and evaluation leadership, making up 50% of their summative rating. Principal practice makes up 30% of the summative rating and is based on the superintendent’s observation of their on-the-job performance. Evaluation leadership, measured by how well the administrator implements AchieveNJ based on a state0developed rubric, makes up 20% of the summative rating. The remaining 50% is made up of student achievement measures: SGO average, administrator goals, and school SGP (if the school has SGP grades). Of this, 10% is based on the school’s SGO average. Schools that do not have SGP grades or subjects have their remaining summative rating (40%) based on administrator goals that are set by the principal and superintendent. Schools are then further classified on whether they are a single-grade SGP school or multi-grade SGP schools. Single-grade SGP principals are rated 20% on administrator goals and 20% on the School SGP. Multi-grade SGP principals have 10% of their rating based on administrator goals and 30% based on School SGP. Examples of administrator goals include college acceptance rates and graduation rates.
AchieveNJ calls for improved professional development and educator support. Evaluations are improved and rely on educator feedback meaning an increase in conferences and greater opportunity to engage in high-quality professional conversations with fellow educators. AchieveNJ is also deeply rooted in data and information. SGOs and SGP will allow teachers to see their impact and allow them to work with administrators to continue to improve. Professional development will be chosen based on the areas of improvement needed. Individual professional development plans will be created to help student achievement. School Improvement Panels (ScIP) helps to ensure teacher’s effectiveness, oversees mentoring activities, conducts evaluations, identifies professional development opportunities, and mid-year evaluations of ineffective and partially ineffective teachers. The ScIP is made of the principal (or designee), an assistant or vice principal, and a teacher. All novice teachers are required to be mentored by an experienced teacher. The mentor is there to share feedback, model strong teacher practice, and provide support and guidance throughout the year. Like under TEACHNJ, a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) will be created if an educator receives a rating of ineffective or partially ineffective. 
Educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists are evaluated based on a practice score that is derived from a district-adopted rubric. From there, growth objectives are created. An example of which is “6th grade students will demonstrate proficiency on a district-developed, age-appropriate assessment of knowledge in utilizing the school’s media center and other information resources.” Rating will be based on the number of students who meet the objective. The Department of Education is still looking to see how districts evaluation these employees and looks for their input.
This school year marks the first year of its statewide implementation. Therefore, there are still some “kinks” that need to be figured out. The Pros of AchieveNJ is better tenure laws to ensure ineffective educators are not in NJ schools, feedback for evaluations, and appropriate professional development. The cons of AchieveNJ are that it ties student achievement and evaluations too heavily to standardized testing, includes very vague descriptions for evaluations of educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists, and could increase “teaching to the test.” In the future, the Department of Education is looking to honor Highly Effective educators through differentiated observation protocols, expanded career pathways and leadership opportunities, and future awards and recognition initiatives.

New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Educator evaluation and support in new jersey. Retrieved from
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Evaluating educational services staff, counselors, and other specialists. Retrieved from
New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Overview for special education teachers. Retrieved from

New Jersey Department of Education. (2013). AchieveNJ: Teacher Practice in 2013-14. Retrieved from

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Student Growth Percentiles

Student Growth Percentiles

With all of the changes going on in New Jersey schools, specifically from Achieve NJ, it is important for educators to understand the new methods being used to determine student achievement. Student growth percentiles (SGP) are now one of the multiple ways to track student growth, which in turn, reflects on teacher and principal effectiveness. With New Jersey being on the forefront of improving educational practice, the process of evaluating student growth is becoming more precise and also varies by grade level. In grade levels 4-8, students take a multi-year assessment (NJ ASK) on the subjects of language arts literacy and math. From these assessments, student growth percentiles are created and give educators a novel way of analyzing student growth. SGPs quantify student achievement by comparing scores with other students on the same academic level. The comparisons can give teachers, parents, and students an alternate view of  determining whether or not a student is progressing appropriately for their grade level. By using these percentiles, it is believed that schools can better determine if certain practices are effective, as well as the teachers who are implementing them.
 The use of SGPs has created various questions about what the scores mean to academic achievement in our schools. In recent years, value-added analysis models have been used to rate student achievement. These analysis models use intricate statistics in order to show student growth by analyzing a specific teacher or school. These methods attempt to show how much a student/ group of students progressed due to the teacher/ school contribution. Despite the fact that these tools may sometimes be a useful indicator of effective practice, there fails to be one main question: How much growth did a student actually make?
The absence of a measurement tool for student growth has led to the emergence of SGPs, or student growth percentiles. Student growth percentiles are a statistical method of showing how much a particular student progressed in comparison to his/her academic peers. In this circumstance, academic peers are students who have scored similarly on standardized tests over the past years and are on the same academic path. Below I have included a brief explanation taken from the RAND Corporation’s program on SGPs:
"For example, if Adele scored 263 on last year's test, her score at the end of this year would be compared with the scores of all the other students who scored 263 last year. Adele's SGP would be her percentile rank (from 1 to 99) within this group of similar peers. If Adele's SGP is 50, it means that her growth in test scores is right in the middle: Half of the similar students who scored 263 last year scored higher than she did this year, and half of them scored lower."
The use of SGPs can show progress on a larger scale in relation to students who are also moving along the same path. These scores answer the general question of “Is            progressing like they should be?” Along with providing a simpler way of showing academic progression (or lack thereof) for a student, SGPs are now also a large portion of the data used in teacher evaluations. It is important to note that due to the years the NJ ASK is administered, as well as the subjects being tested, SGPs apply to language arts and math teachers in grades 4-8 only. A teacher’s “score” is taken from the median growth percentile from a group of students. The median growth percentile or MGP is the middle score in a group of students. Instead of creating an average of the percentiles, the median score is used because it shows the growth of a middle or “average” student. This is said to be a more accurate depiction of a typical student because the middle score is not greatly affected by outliers in either direction (either a student doing exceptionally well or poor). For the teachers that get evaluated on SGPs, their score accounts for 30% of their yearly evaluation. Although this may seem like it puts a great amount of pressure on teachers, they are not the only ones who are affected, school principals are evaluated based on these scores as well.  Due to new educational standards from Achieve NJ, principals are also now critiqued based on how well students perform on standardized tests.  Their “scores” are similar to the MGP used to evaluate teachers, but instead of a particular class, the calculation uses all applicable students in creating their MGP.
Unfortunately, much like other analysis methods, SGPs are not flawless in either determining student growth or teacher effectiveness. The median scores used for evaluation do not account for differences in student characteristics. Additionally, SGPs, like value-added modeling, do not specify what exactly caused the improvement. Since the scores do not show specific causes of improvement, it is difficult to determine whether or not a different student would have made the same improvement in the same conditions. SGPs may be a simple method to understand scores, however, when looking at the variables that come into play that affect student improvement, rating students and teachers based on these scores may be altogether too simple.  Learning is an extremely dynamic process, and by just comparing numbers, we may not be accurately analyzing a particular student’s progression through school. Also, as past research has shown, standardized testing may not always be the best indicator of learning. Since standardized testing has flaws in it self, by evaluating teachers on exam results we may not be accurately scoring how effective a teacher is in the classroom, but how well the student learned to take the exam.
 Since Achieve NJ has only recently been introduced in the 2013-2014 school year, it will take some time for schools to accurately assess whether the new standards are making positive changes. Additionally, because SGPs are now a component of evaluation for "tested subject" teachers, it is essential that educators understand the meaning of scores and how they can be used properly. Hopefully, with proper use, the incorporation of SGPs can become a helpful tool in improving educational practice. Despite some of the flaws behind SGPs, by giving a new perspective on improving student achievement, schools may be taking a step in the right direction.

Below are the two main articles that I used which are provided through the State of New Jersey - Department of Education Website: www.
Betebenner, D. (2011) An Overview of Student Growth Percentiles, National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment.
Betebenner, D. (2011), White paper from the National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessments (NCIEA): A Technical Overview of the Student Growth Percentile Methodology: Student Growth Percentiles and Percentile Growth Projections/Trajectories, The National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Student Growth Objectives (SGOs)

Student Growth Objectives
By:  Melissa Hancock

      Teachers in New Jersey are in the midst of a major change in how they are evaluated.  One portion of this new evaluation system is the creation and monitoring of Student Growth Objectives (SGOs).  As part of the TEACHNJ Act, all teachers in the state must create between one and two of these SGOs with approval of their principal.  Student Growth Objectives are designed to be long-term academic goals.  Teachers can set them for all of their students or a specific sub-group of students.  Overall, SGOs are designed to help teachers assess where their students are and where they want them to be at the end of instruction.
         The number of SGOs set is based on whether the teacher teaches a “Tested Grade and Subject” or not.  “Tested Grades and Subjects” are fourth through eighth grade Language Arts and Mathematics.  Teachers who teach these subject areas only need to create one SGO because they will also have a Student Growth Percentile (SGP) score that is based on their NJASK standardized test scores.  Any teacher that does not teach these grades or subjects must prepare two SGOs.  For both groups, the SGO score will count as 15% of their annual summative performance rating (NJDOE, 2013).
         There are several keys to setting SGOs.  According to the state, the goals should be “SMART” or:  specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.  In order to be specific, the objective should identify a skill or content students need to master.  It must be measurable because teachers need to be able to identify a way to measure the results.  In order for it to be achievable, there must be current student data available.  It should be relevant in that it reflects the standards of the content area or course being taught.  Finally, it should be timely in that the objective can be accomplished in the time frame set forth (NJDOE, 2013).
         There are two types of SGOs that can be set, general or specific.  One principal I spoke with said that her district is recommending teachers set one of each, but that it is not required.  If you choose to set a general SGO, you are using a broad scope.  General SGOs usually include all or large portions of the curriculum and all or most of your students.  Specific SGOs may focus on a certain subgroup of your students or a specific skill or content standard.   Either type of SGO can also be tiered.  This means that you can set different expectations for different groups of students based on their preparation level.  For example, you can take your baseline data and determine how many of your students are high, medium, or low in regard to their preparedness and set differing goals for each group.  If you have stark contrasts in the levels of your students, you should consider using tiered objectives (NJDOE, 2013).
        One of the most important parts of developing an SGO is to be sure the goal is appropriate to the level of the students.  There are several options for measurement tools including traditional pre and post tests, performance assessments, and portfolio assessments.  The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) suggests teachers use caution when using a pretest and posttest for SGOs because they are often arbitrary evaluations that are weak in establishing baseline data.  If using this model, teachers would need to have done an item-by-item analysis of the test and would have hopefully administered the test many times before and thoroughly analyzed the data.  A portfolio assessment is able to play to every child’s strengths and allows for multiple measures of proficiency.  In my opinion, it is a better measure of ability, baseline, and growth and paints a robust picture of where students are.  Performance assessments are another option because they allow teachers to assess both process and product.  These might be helpful in content areas like science, music, art, and physical education (NJEA, 2013).
        When analyzing your baseline data, you should see what the students can do when they come into your classroom.  If they can’t perform the desired task or are missing key prerequisite skills, you should lower your target percentage.  The District Evaluation Advisory Committee (DEAC) should set the range of percentages from one level to the next, but the NJEA suggested a range of 10-15%.  This is the range of what the difference would be between a score of full and a score of exceptional or partial.  However, it is important that teachers are allowed to set their own target (full) percentage, because they know the students best.  If the administration tries to set a standard target percentage, this would be an arbitrary number and not acceptable for evaluation according to the NJEA (NJEA, 2013).
       Once the baseline data has been assessed, it is time to begin writing the SGO.  The SGO will include all grade levels covered, the interval of time, and a rationale for the SGO. This should include the standards being covered, why they are important, and an explanation of the assessments to be used and how they will be used.  The actual SGO is written indicating the target percentage of students and how much they will improve on the assessment.  Baseline data should be included as to student levels at the beginning of the year and any other data relevant to student progress such as attendance, socioeconomic status, and etc.  In the scoring plan, the target percentage, or full percentage, is calculated by the teacher, who also calculates the other percentages (exceptional, partial, and insufficient) based on the range set by the DEAC (NJDOE, 2013). 
This year the SGOs must be set by November 15th.  In order for the SGO to be finalized, it must be agreed upon by both the teacher and the building principal.  Progress is then tracked periodically throughout the year.  This should include at a minimum of a mid-year assessment and then a final assessment at the end of the year (NJDOE, 2013).  I suggest all teachers do a mid-year assessment so there are no surprises at the end of the year.  A mid-year assessment is also important because if a teacher discovers his or her SGO was out of line, possibly because of poor baseline data, it can only be revised through February 15th.  After that point, the SGO must stand as it is and will be used to determine teacher effectiveness. 
At the end of the year, the final score is calculated by the principal.  However, I suggest that all teachers calculate their own final score as well.  Teachers should bring their scored assessments, portfolios, or performance rubrics with them to their final meeting.  It is important for all teachers to come to the meeting prepared with both their evidence and their own calculated scores.  Their goal is a score of full (3); and this will be used for determining the SGO percentage of the summative evaluation (NJDOE, 2013).
If used properly, SGOs can help teachers by allowing them to focus on content that actually matters, use formative assessments to drive their instruction, and to differentiate instruction to meet individual needs (NJEA, 2013).  My concern is that teachers in different districts are receiving different amounts of training on the development and monitoring of SGOs.  Some administrators are saying the whole process is really very simple, while others are stressing the seriousness of needing to set achievable and measurable goals.  Overall, I believe that setting SGOs can be helpful, but I wish teachers in every district had been given the opportunity to pilot the system for a year before they were fully implemented and used as a basis for evaluating teacher effectiveness.

New Jersey Education Association.  (8 Oct 2013).  Student Growth Objectives  [PowerPoint Slides]. 
New Jersey Department of Education.  (2013).  “Achieve New Jersey for Teachers:  Student Growth Objectives.” Retrieved from