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Schools prepare for new tests

Student Learning Objectives provide measurement where CRCT, EOCT don’t

POSTED: July 14, 2013 12:14 a.m.

Georgia students now have one more test with which to contend.

Implementation of the Student Learning Objectives is scheduled to begin in the 2013-14 school year. These tests will be for all students, in subject areas not covered by either the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, which is given to elementary schoolers, or the End of Course Tests, which are given to high schoolers.

“Each school system had a choice of a three- or a four-year phase-in plan,” explained

Terry Sapp, high school improvement specialist with Hall County Schools. Hall opted for a three-year plan, while Gainesville will implement the tests over four years, said Jamey Moore, Gainesville’s director of curriculum and instruction.

Hall’s commitment for this upcoming school year is that every teacher must have at least one way to measure student growth.

Sapp used high school science as an example.

“We have a teacher, let’s say that teaches environmental science, biology and human (anatomy and physiology),” she said. “Biology has an EOCT, but for the human A&P and the environmental science, there is no EOCT. So we have to create an SLO assessment.”

But, for this upcoming school year, the teacher already has one growth measurement, the EOCT for biology.

For the 2014-15 school year, Sapp said that the system plans to have an SLO developed for every single course. Then, the third year would be a growth measurement test for every course per teacher.

Gainesville’s plan is similar, but for this first year the system is developing tests from a pre-selected list of courses, Moore said.

The outcome of each SLO will not have any effect on the student’s grade. Instead, scores will be used for teacher evaluation, as well as helping to drive instruction, Sapp said.

The state plans to eventually use teacher and school leader evaluation scores as part of determining the College and Career Ready Performance Index scores for schools, though Moore said there is no date set for when this will go into effect.

“The information that becomes available to the teacher following a pre-test and post-test becomes invaluable in guiding instruction,” Sapp said.

SLO tests will be administered at some point during the first three to four weeks of school and then again in April to mark student improvement over the course of the year. Scores must be reported to the state by May.

“When you think about the fact when this is fully implemented in 2016-17, an elementary student will show up at the start of the year and they’ll take tests in reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, plus any of the activity classes that they’re taking — there’s the potential of students testing in seven areas right at the start of the school,” Moore said. “So there’s definitely an impact on instructional time based on this state mandate.”

Both Hall and Gainesville systems have developed much of their own SLO tests.

“The process by which (systems create tests) requires lots of documentation, collaboration and then (state Department of Education ) approval before you can use them,” Sapp said. The department also offers public domain SLO assessments, created by teams of teachers from across the state.

The only Hall courses this upcoming year that will be using stated-created SLO tests will be at the high school level in science and social studies.

“But regarding the social studies, our teachers were on the team that created the public domain social studies assessments,” Sapp said.

The development of the tests can cause a strain, Moore said, in terms of time and resources. He said that some funds from the state have been made available to help.

“It really is impacting the way we have to do things,” he said.

Moore also pointed out that, with student growth accounting for 50 percent of teacher evaluations, and SLO results accounting for 50 percent of that, there is a concern with the comparability with state tests like the EOCT.

“There’s some very big differences in these tests,” he said. “One being, a state-tested teacher isn’t even allowed to look at the state tests while an SLO teacher may have played a part in writing the tests and setting the targets by which they’ll be measured. It’s a substantial difference.

“The philosophy behind the SLO is definitely a best practice that good teachers have always done,” Moore added. “I just worry that this work may get in the way of those good teachers.”


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