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A Descriptive Study of the Pilot Implementation of Student Learning Objectives in Arizona and Utah

By Reino Makkonen, Jaclyn Tejwani, Fernando Rodriguez, Jr.


Student learning objectives (SLOs) are set by teachers and their principal to measure classroom-specific student achievement growth for teacher evaluations. A teacher’s annual SLOs could include, for example, moving 50 percent of students in the lowest performing category into the average category and 30 percent of average students into the highest performing category, as judged by a year-end assessment.

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 support these efforts.

This REL West study of the pilot implementation of student learning objectives in Arizona and Utah in 2013/14 offers new evidence about this expanding approach to teacher evaluation.

Arizona Findings

  • Teachers tended to target proficiency growth on vendor-developed tests and offer few details on their instructional strategies
  • Teachers’ SLO scores from their principals spanned performance levels and varied by district and grade span
  • SLO scores identified high-performing teachers in low-performing schools
  • SLO scores had low, positive, statistically significant correlations with classroom observation and student survey results

Utah Findings

  • 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
  • SLO scores varied little, with 89 percent “meeting expectations”
  • 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

Resource Details

Product Information

Copyright: 2015
Format: PDF
Pages: 38
Publisher: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences