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)

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