Reflecting on Student Growth

The template for Student Learning Objectives provided by the Illinois State Board of Education is very similar to the Individual Teacher Professional Development Plans that our school district uses for teacher evaluations. For our ITPDPs, we must identify a PLC Team Goal, an Individual Teacher Academic Goal, and an Individual Teacher Behavior Goal. Each of these goals are required to be SMART goals (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and time-specific) aligned to student achievement. The PLC Team Goal can be the same as either the Academic or Behavior Goal. Within each of these goals, we identify learning goals and action steps for ourselves towards student achievement. We must demonstrate how these goals align with the Iowa Teaching Standards and the Danielson Components. We must also identify indicators of progress towards the goals. Below is a comparison of the two templates using the elements of the Illinois SLO as the benchmark:

Our ITPDPs appear to be a simplified version of the model Illinois has set for SLOs. The ITPDPs are formative guides for helping the teacher and evaluator move through the three year evaluation cycle, growing as a professional teacher. Student achievement of the goal has little effect on the teacher’s evaluation; the goal is just a context for the evaluator to observe the teacher using the Danielson Framework.

In conversations with my evaluator (building principal) and our building’s instructional coach around the ITPDP and SLO processes, we found the SLO to be more specific. Our teachers typically set broad goals for their ITPDPs, developing over the course of a semester or school year. All three of us see this time span shrinking to more specific goals as we all grow more familiar with the process.

After going much more in-depth to complete the two SLOs for this course, I feel I have a much better understanding of how to adapt the process for my ITPDP. I do want to begin to narrow the scope and focus of my Academic and Behavior goals. The biggest changes I need to make with my ITPTP involve assessment:

  • How do I establish an adequate baseline?

  • After setting growth targets, are there better ways I can differentiate my instruction to help individual students achieve these growth targets?

  • How can I formatively assess along the way to provide adequate feedback along the way?

  • How can I better fit my goals to match the growth we want our students to make during 10th grade?

My only real fear that has grown out of this process revolves around the use of Type I (standardized, externally-evaluated) & Type II (common developed) assessments in our performance-based courses. It scares me to hear how colleagues in other states are required to perform Type I and II assessments that don’t align to their curricula. Time is being taken away from “teaching the curriculum” to “teach to the assessment.” Hopefully the implementation of SLOs can help provide evidence of student growth without having to adjust time in this way.

By using the Illinois SLO template, I believe music educators can better justify their programs and teaching in the same language and context that our colleagues in the core classes are using. We can identify specific knowledge and skills we would like our students to achieve, set goals for meeting these standards, identify teaching strategies to use, formatively monitor growth and achievement, provide descriptive feedback, and summatively assess to demonstrate growth and achievement. Especially if we are using Type II or Type III (individual teacher developed) assessments with our SLOs, we can present our courses and the learning that occurs within them in ways non-music evaluators can understand.


Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.