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A descriptive study of the pilot implementation of Student Learning Objectives in Arizona and Utah

REL West’s Educator Effectiveness Alliance has published a study of the pilot implementation of student learning objectives (SLOs) in Arizona and Utah in 2013/14 that offers new evidence about this expanding evaluation approach. With approximately 30 states now adopting (or planning to adopt) teacher evaluation policies that include SLOs, state and district leaders are trying to determine the appropriate level of guidance and oversight to provide to support these efforts.

Arizona findings. Review of SLO documents indicated that Arizona’s pilot teachers tended to target proficiency growth on vendor-developed tests and tended to offer few details on their instructional strategies. Teachers’ SLO scores spanned performance levels and varied by district and grade span. The scores identified high-performing teachers in low-performing schools (and vice versa) and also had low, positive, statistically significant correlations with classroom observation and student survey results.

Utah findings. Utah’s pilot teachers tended to define their SLO-focused instructional strategies and develop and use their own SLO assessments, with goals focusing on students demonstrating knowledge (through project completion) or a physical skill. The SLO scores for Utah pilot teachers varied little, with 89 percent “meeting expectations.” Utah’s pilot teachers (half of whom were special education teachers) generally perceived the SLO process as worthwhile and beneficial to their students and to their own professional growth; however, they did not perceive the SLO pilot as positively affecting their instruction or their knowledge of effective ways to assess students.