Rhode Island: Reimagining Student Learning as Part of the Educator Evaluation SystemReimagining Student Learning as Part of the Educator Evaluation System

Over 6 years, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) collected feedback (through surveys and in-person summits) from educators across the state on the teacher evaluation system. Educators consistently reported that the student learning objective (SLO) process—the state’s measure of student learning—is disconnected from teacher classroom instruction, and thus functions as a barrier rather than a support to improving practice.

Problem of Practice

Rhode Island’s problem of practice for the Collaborative in Year 1 was how to reimagine the student learning component of the system. RIDE did not want to disregard the lessons learned from the existing SLO process, but instead wanted to take a continuous improvement approach that built on what worked, while fixing what did not.


RIDE adopted the following strategies:

  1. Conduct a SWOT analysis: The RIDE team conducted a SWOT analysis to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to determine those student learning objectives that were working well and those that were not. This analysis helped Rhode Island build upon previous work and focus on continuous improvement.
  2. Develop guiding principles: Based on the SWOT analysis, the RIDE team developed a list of guiding principles that would help frame new models for measuring student learning. The guiding principles included:
    1. Students: a representative class or group of students is included.
    2. Standards: content standards are appropriate and prioritized to the course.
    3. Timeframe: both long-term and short-term cycles are encouraged.
    4. Evidence: multiple, varied sources of standards-aligned evidence are used.
    5. Strategies: instructional strategies are planned for and supported.
    6. Expectations: student learning expectations are articulated and monitored.
  3. Launch additional stakeholder engagement: RIDE wanted to ensure that any new models for measuring student learning would gain buy-in from educators and ultimately improve instructional practice. To do this, RIDE launched a collaboration with the Rhode Island teachers union. State leadership and the union representatives participated in all meetings and reviews, and stakeholders provided feedback on all documents. Union representatives participated in developing the guiding principles (see Strategy 2) and new models for measuring student learning (see Strategy 4).
  4. Pilot new models for measuring student learning: Building on strategies 1–3, RIDE developed or selected three models of measuring student learning to pilot and collect feedback during the 2017–18 school year:
    • Embedded practice model: prioritizes using measures of student learning that are already in use in a teacher’s day-to-day classroom. The teacher has ongoing data discussions with colleagues and evaluators to drive instructional decisions. .
    • Portfolio model: the teacher submits work samples from three students representing varied skill levels to provide evidence of student learning during a specific time period.
    • Student learning goals: similar to student learning objectives, teachers create a long- or short-term student learning goal and adjust instruction based on periodically collected student data.

Scoring data from the pilot will be analyzed at the end of the 2017–18 school year.

In carrying out these strategies, RIDE receives intensive support at national meetings and from their regional comprehensive center—Northeast Comprehensive Center—in between national meetings.

Year 2 Work: Authentic Communication and Stakeholder Engagement

RIDE plans to continue to engage stakeholders, particularly educators participating in the pilots to gather feedback on how to strengthen and improve the three models and ultimately determine each model’s viability as future statewide models for measures of student learning. Some of the communication and stakeholder activities planned include creating new scoring rubric and guidance, conducting an implementation survey to pilot participants, conducting focus groups at each pilot site, and a study of final evaluation data.


Lisa Foehr
Director, Educator Excellence and Certification Services, RIDE

Kathy Dunne
Director of Professional Development for Learning Innovations, WestEd

Scott Reynolds
Senior Associate, CTAC