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Title:Making sense of student learning objectives within teacher evaluations: A case study of Illinois principals as implementing agents
Author(s):Anderson, Brian C.
Director of Research:Hackmann, Donald G.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Hackmann, Donald G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Monda-Amaya, Lisa; Roegman, Rachel; Hermann, Mary
Department / Program:Educ Policy, Orgzn & Leadrshp
Discipline:Ed Organization and Leadership
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):teacher evaluation
Student Learning Objectives
policy implementation
Abstract:Across the nation the teacher evaluation process has significantly changed to incorporate a model for measuring student growth (Doherty & Jacob, 2015). The Student Learning Objective (SLO) process is a commonly used student growth model, including in the state of Illinois (Lacireno-Paquet, Morgan, & Mello, 2014; Milanowski et al., 2016). This process is proclaimed as universally applicable to all teachers (Gill, English, Furgeson, & McCullough, 2014; Lacireno-Paquet et al., 2014), versatile for use with meeting student growth policy requirements (Gill, Bruch, & Booker, 2013), able to improve teacher and principal collaboration, and useful at promoting reflective thinking that can generate professional growth (ISBE, 2014a). Principals, centrally positioned in schools as primary evaluators for teachers and key policy implementers, are charged with making sense of SLO policies while incorporating the SLO process into the practice of evaluating teachers. This qualitative case study examined principals’ sensemaking of SLO policy implementation in one Illinois school district. The following questions guided the research: What meanings and understandings do principals construct regarding the SLO process and how the process is implemented? How does the sensemaking of teachers, principals, and central office administrators affect the operationalizing the SLO process? Which dimensions of implementing the SLO process influence the school practices of teachers and principals? To provide analysis of data a conceptual framework was established using the cognitive framework (Spillane, Reiser, & Reimer, 2002), sensemaking theory (Weick, 1995; Weick et al., 2005), and the distributive cognition theory (Halverson & Clifford, 2006). Interviews, observations, and an artifact analysis generated the main forms of data for the study. Across all grade levels, multiple semi-structured interviews were conducted with nine school principals/assistant principals, six teachers, and three central office administrators. The findings demonstrated training experiences varied for principals, which led to different experiences with principals’ sensemaking and implementation within their schools. Principals believed accountability was the intention of policy makers, although this intention did not fully transfer to application of the policy and the SLO process is often completed solely out of compliance. Principals relied on the district SLO guidebook as an essential artifact for completing the SLO process. Principals reported overcoming challenges with implementation, preferring observational data compared to SLO data and relying on conversations with teachers when questioning rigor of goals. The principals believed the process had become yet another requirement for them to complete, further adding to the increasing complexity of their administrative roles. Principals and teachers have found SLOs improve assessment-writing skills, increase collaboration time, and require a significant amount of time for completion. Noted implications highlight the importance of intentionality when selecting and crafting the student growth model. Districts should consider all options for growth models, seek guidance from more experienced sources, and create a policy that balances the legal requirements with the need for universal application while remaining user-friendly and aligning to school improvement initiatives. Principals need specific training and ongoing professional development as they work through the sensemaking process and operationalize the growth model. In practice, principals complete the SLO process out of compliance and they miss an opportunity to promote collaborative conversations and professional development on assessment writing and the associated use of student data. Recommendations are included for policymakers and for practical applications with principals.
Issue Date:2018-07-12
Rights Information:Copyright 2018 Brian C. Anderson
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-09-27
Date Deposited:2018-08

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