Teacher ratings to incorporate student scores

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AP Biology students take a pre-test during class time. All core teachers administered these tests, also known as “baseline tests.”

The school year has just begun and students have already been hit with a test in nearly every class. Whispers of the strange new “SLO tests” or “baseline tests” can be heard from every corner and hallway of the school. Why, all of a sudden, has New York been taken over by yet another statewide examination policy?

An SLO, or Student Learning Objective, is part of a teacher evaluation system that the state of New York recently implemented.

Teachers must each give a test before they begin teaching the curriculum, to serve as a baseline evaluation of the students’ knowledge. From there, the state is asking teachers to establish a target toward which students will work over the course of the class. The state indicates that teachers should give a similar exam after the completion of a course in order to assess the students’ progress. Teachers will also receive ratings based on their students’ improvements on the examinations during the course of the year.

“There is evidence that setting rigorous and ambitious learning goals, combined with the purposeful use of data through assessments, leads to higher academic performance by students,” said representatives from the New York State Education Department in a recent statement published online. “We expect our approach will have significant instructional benefit by encouraging teachers to be systematic and strategic in their instructional decisions, and lead

to improved teacher and student performance.”

So far, the reaction to the SLO policy has been mixed. The teachers seem to lack clear instruction about the SLO process.

“The guidelines we received keep changing,” said Spanish teacher Ms. Evelin Joseph. “At first this was really confusing, but it’s gotten a little easier over time.”

Some teachers and students feel the policy is a nuisance to their busy schedules.

“We’ll see how it goes,” said chemistry teacher Mr. Scott Carmody. “I personally wouldn’t want to start the school year with six tests when I don’t know the material.”

“It assesses the ability to take a test,” said senior Lani Hack. “The SLO tests won’t show how much more intelligent you’ve become and they won’t help you learn the material.”

“As a student, I don’t mind them,” said junior Simon Shapiro. “However, I think that there are serious issues in the way our teachers are being assessed. It doesn’t take into account kids who may already start out at a high level.”

Some, however, view the new policy in a more positive light.

“I think it will be interesting to see how much I have learned over the year,” said senior Joseph Featherston.

“I think the SLO tests are a good attempt at gauging the learning that is taking place in Schreiber,” said senior Zoe Weiss. “There are a few kinks that must be ironed out but if it is done correctly the test can be accurate.”

For now, students and teachers can wait until the assessment is completed in June to see the final results of this new testing policy.