Hopes vs. Goals

Next Monday in our district, teachers must turn in their goals to their administrator. Our state (Maine) has adopted PEPG (Performance Evaluation and Professional Growth Model) as a tool for evaluating teacher effectiveness. Teachers must write 2 Goals

  • Professional Goal (for personal growth)
  • SLOs -Student Learning Objectives (for student growth)

Our district has chosen NBPT Standards (National Board for Professional Teachers) for professional goals. Teachers must first self-assess their strengths and weaknesses on each of the 5 Core Propositions of the NBPT Standards and then select an area of weakness to design a goal.

Then teachers must determine an area of need for their students based on a variety of data including: reviewing student folders from previous years, current student work, IEPs, pre-assessments, standardized tests, etc. They then set a goal for student learning that addresses the need they’ve determined.

Simple right? Well, it might be if all students had the same strengths and weaknesses. It might be if students were only weak in one subject area.  It might be if they all had a similar weakness in one aspect of that subject area. Our students, however, tend to come to us with a beautiful tapestry of abilities, interests, motivations, and personalities that can make singling out a goal an interesting task.

This is where the math coach I work with and I come in.  We have been helping teachers:

  • Reflect on  student work
  • Analyze student data from pre-assessments or standardized tests
  • Compare student abilities to end of year expectations
  • Prioritize those expectations (what do you want all __graders leaving your class being able to do as a_____(reader, writer, scientist, mathematician, etc)
  • Draft a goal that is achievable but rigorous
  • Create plans of action for instruction that targets the goal and differentiates for students.

That is goal setting and it takes a lot of work.


In the past few years we tended to write more HOPES than GOALS. We might have written “At least 80% of my students will go up 1 level on the Fountas & Pinnell  Benchmark Assessment”. We had no plan of action for making it happen other than our regular teaching so it wasn’t so much of a goal for the students as a hope that they hit the expected benchmark. It wasn’t stretching our teaching or their learning in any purposeful way. It didn’t offer a path for success. And our hope for their success relied on one assessment measure at the end of the school year. If they had a bad day, if they didn’t connect with the test book, if they made some careless errors, our hopes were dashed.


This year I have asked teachers to look at the reading (or writing or math) behaviors expected for those end-of-year benchmark levels and pull out the ones they determine to be non-negotiable. These are behaviors they want students to leave their class with  solid ability. We created a rubric of these 5-10 behaviors and created a class roster in which we could track success with these behaviors and note who already had these as a strength. Their goal might be framed “80% of my students will acquire 4/5 targeted behaviors“. The expectation would be all students acquire all behaviors but we have to be careful with our wording. The way the teacher evaluation system works, if they don’t meet the goals the way you’ve written them-you are ineffective!

Here are some samples from 2nd Grade and Kindergarten:

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Individual Tracking Sheet for Each Student
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Class Roster for “At A Glance” Tracking

With these tools, teachers can more easily differentiate instruction as they create small groups and confer with students.  They can decide when whole group lessons need to be repeated and refined, or when it would be more efficient to form small skill groups.  They can see who needs more scaffolding and who is ready for more challenge. This type of goal setting drives instruction. Students and teachers are more actively pursuing their goals. They aren’t merely hoping they pass the “Level N” book in June.

How does your district set goals? Do you find them meaningful? I’d love to hear more.

What’s On My Book Radar

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Screen Shot 2017-10-14 at 8.39.26 AMI need more books in my life that expand my understanding of the human experience-and this short but powerful novel did just that. Clayton is learning to play the Blues with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd. He wants nothing more than to please his Papa and be ready to solo-and then his world is turned upside down. Papa Byrd dies and Clayton’s mother sells everything he owned and promised to Clayton-including his guitar. Devastated, Clayton steals back his grandfather’s pork pie hat-the only memento he has left. We begin to see the tangled relationships between Clayton’s mother and her father, between Clayton’s mother and his own father, and Clayton’s relationship with the two of them unfold. All families deal with loss and grief with some universal feelings, but unique reactions. This book helped me see inside the heart of a young boy, his wounded mother, and the role Blues played in their lives


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