SLO or not… it’s still the library

I am not doing the same SLO this year as I did last year. Are you? The librarians in our district were told we did not have to do another SLO, we just have to add a performance indicator to our current SLO. I don’t know about you, but I took the SLO process seriously last year and not only created a lesson in compliance with the PA Model Library Curriculum but also included 4 performance indicators. I figured if I had to do an SLO, it should be a worthwhile part of my curriculum! In my opinion it would be overkill to add a fifth assessment and do the same SLO this year. So, I chose to write another one and I am going to rotate the 2 SLO’s each year and treat my grade 5-6 library class as a 2 year program.

When we first began the process of creating SLO’s, we did not know if librarians were actually supposed to create them. Like many others, our district decided on a split system: elementary and upper elementary librarians (K-6) that taught on a fixed schedule (and provided student grades) would create SLO’s and the middle and high school librarians on a flexed schedule (where teachers came to the library with students) would not. The middle and high school librarians breathed a sigh of relief and the rest of us plowed through the confusion. I must admit that our elementary (K-4) librarians had a more difficult time than  I did. They wrote their SLO together since they all teach the same 5 grade levels. They wrote an SLO similar to one that was making its way around our listserv, but it was deemed unworthy by the administration and they had to start over again in January and have everything completed by May. My SLO faired better because, before our process began, I chose to read everything I could from librarians in New York State , who were about 8 months ahead of Pennsylvania in writing SLOs ( The processes were similar but the forms and procedures were totally different. Even so, I got a sense of what I thought I needed. I already had an idea for my SLO and I knew what I wanted to accomplish because I set goals for myself and my students each school year, but filling out the forms became a nightmare of paperwork.

I was only in my second year at my new post at Skyview Upper Elementary School and I wanted to do a unit on website evaluation – a skill  which I noticed was lacking in my students. I chose to use website evaluation as my SLO and poured into it everything I knew worked. The problem: performance indicators. To me it seemed simple: evaluate a website… you could either do it or you couldn’t.But once I got into the SLO process, I realized it would be more complicated. I had to come up with different types of assessments other than  the usual website evaluation rubrics I created for various grade levels. For a copy go to I didn’t like most of the lessons out there.  The C.A.R.P. test (the simplest in my mind) seemed like a nightmare with immature 5th and 6th graders and the college rubrics and websites outlining website evaluation seemed cumbersome. That’s when I came up with the idea of creating my own one stop shop. The wikispace page above became my repository. A one stop shop that I could teach from and then when the nightmare of music lessons, absenteeism, and snow delays hit, my students could use it to teach themselves. I read various research studies that indicated that even with lessons, students would only successfully evaluate a website about 35% of the time. This had me worried. What if my performance indicators also showed only a 35% success rate. That’s where came into play. Formative assessments are my new best friend! The Kahoot assessments were so successful that I decided to do some of my performance indicators with teacher-created tests on Kahoot. No one wants to do poorly on a game show!

Students showing off their swag from the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website.

Students showing off their swag from the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website.

I used my C.A.R.P.: Something Smells Fishy lessons and gave 2 different Kahoot tests (I actually had 3 or 4 and gave different tests to different classes to see if there was a difference in the tests themselves. Since I teach 34 classes in a 6 day cycle, this was not a problem). I also used different website evaluation tools (one in which I created myself and others which I found in various places) to have students evaluate different fake websites. I used these rubrics as different performance indicators. I must admit that my SLO was more of a research process than a simple SLO, but I learned what worked and what didn’t so that the next time I use this SLO, the process will go more smoothly. I measured student success and was very pleased that all 850 of my students passed with over a 70%. Was it because of the SLO process? Was it because of the extra time I took in providing teach-yourself modules on the wiki? Was it because I taught the performance indicators of a successful website in more than one way and then allowed students to go and test them on a website which I knew was fake (Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus)? I want to say it was more the latter than the former because I always want students to explore, discover, and evaluate websites for themselves. The only difference this time was the assessments. In the past I just used a simple Google Form and asked students if a certain website had accurate information or not. I did not collect student names on this form, just plain formative assessment. Now, for the SLO, the assessments had to have student names attached, so I changed the form and collected the same data with student names. The Kahoot game was a new assessment for this lesson and the students loved it and had fun. Imagine an SLO being fun! Still, I believe the lesson was successful not because the SLO data I gathered said it was, but because of what my students shared with me about the experience. They enjoyed  their clothing purchases from the Great Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus website (which we poured over for 2 or 3 class periods) because they got to see a classy fake website (see picture)! And then there was this e-mail: “I was on a website that reminded me of your lesson, and thought I would share it with you. This website said they would give you a $25 gift card if you shared it with 15 people. I thought it was a scam, so I checked it out… This site is a work of fiction… and I was glad I read the terms, or I would’ve wasted my time, so thank you for teaching me those things.” Now I knew the lesson was worthwhile and I didn’t need an SLO to tell me that my students got it!

So, I am doing a different SLO this year basically because I get it now. I don’t have to teach to a test or do things differently to comply with the SLO mandate from the state. I just have to do what I know is good for my students and make sure the same formative assessments I’ve used in the past are attached to a name. In fact, to save my elementary colleagues the pain of creating another SLO this year, I took a wonderful lesson they already do that totally complies with our Model Library Curriculum and our district curriculum and created their SLO and some accompanying rubrics and quizzes for them. I am starting to like this process. I love to create challenging lessons and now adding fun assessments attached to named students makes it an SLO! So, don’t fret the SLO process. Do what you have always done to allow students to learn, just make the assessments fun and collect their names as part of your data!

Collaborative research study on website evaluation:

Need help writing an SLO? Contact me: or check this link from the Buck County IU:

P.S. I think it would be helpful for us to share our SLOs across the state. If you would like to join me, I created a wiki where you can deposit your SLO. Here is the link, join us! I thought it would be nice if we each created our own page and put our SLO and some supporting materials on each page. I still have not created my page but I will share my work with you before school starts.  PLEASE NOTE: The SLOs shared on this wiki will not be vetted or endorsed by PSLA in any way. Please evaluate them carefully before editing for your own use. PSLA, through an LSTA grant and with the help of Dr. Mary Kay Biagini, is in the process of developing resources to help PA librarians with the SLO process. Please watch the PSLA listserv, Twitter (@PSLA_News) and Facebook (PSLA- Pennsylvania School Librarians Assoc.) for more details!

Janice Conger is the Librarian at Arrowhead Elementary School, located in Lower Providence Township in Montgomery County.

Janice Conger- Librarian at Arrowhead Elementary School, located in Lower Providence Township in Montgomery County.




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