This year the state of New Jersey, as part of their effort to balance the legal obligation for measurable outcomes of teacher effectiveness without relying solely on student testing, began the use of Student Growth Objectives (SGOs.)
Yes another acronym in the world of education. For those of you not from the great state of NJ, all an SGO is, is a measurable learning outcome goal that is completed for a class or subset of students over a given time. If you think that is a pile of verbal diarrhea, you are right! But that is nothing compared to the actual explanation. If you want the “short, short version” it is simply quantifying your vision and goals for your class or group of students.
During the beginning of the school year, we had very little direction on how this was to be completed. Not only did we not know, our administrators were unsure and the state had not released all of the guidelines. We had some professional development from a state representative, but despite the fact that he was a great speaker and knew the information well, writing SGOs was a nightmare.
We spent several hours during that professional development day working on SGOs to create a plan for at least one. After hours of working with several other teachers, we felt like we had maybe figured out what we might be close to supposed to be doing. Of course we still had some tweaking to do to create a finished product.
Several months after the SGOs were signed and in progress, the state released guidelines and rubrics for how the SGOs should be written, what makes a good SGO, and what types of data would create valid tests. In all honesty, I skimmed it, then never looked at it again. I still have it, so that I can use it in creating SGOs for next year, but it is foolish to think that I would be rewriting an entire SGO after that long, convoluted process. I took advantage of the “adjustment period” to change my SGO numbers for a student who transferred students.
Now that the year is nearly over and I just finished the last of my assessments to add to my SGO review sheet, I can think about the positives and the negatives of this process.
I will get the negatives out-of-the-way first
– There was almost no timely direction. How do we implement something we haven’t created guides or procedures to do.
– No one knew what was “too hard” or “too easy”. In reflection, one of my SGOs was too easy. I feel this way because there were no kids that did not reach the goal. Not every student made a full year’s worth of growth in that area, but many have not had their haircut available.
– I did review info weekly! Having weekly data points on kids is great and enables you to check and recheck data.
– In the end, despite a difficult year for many reasons and a class that in general is far below grade level in several areas, I was able to see significant growth because of the numbers I had tracked.
– Finally, if we do it correctly, it gives an accurate picture of student growth and our impact on them in a small part of what we do. It may not be perfect, but unlike a test or a classroom observation, it’s not a snapshot, its more of a panoramic look at student growth over the course of the year.
SGOs have a lot of work to go before they are truly efficient, but I would rather work on making them better than complain about them. Overall they have the potential to be a far more efficient indicator of student growth than standardized test ever will.