SGOs, Teacher Evaluation, and Students with Severe Disabilities – Tips for Teachers

By Jennifer Fisahn, M.Ed, BCBA

bSci21 Contributing Writer

As public schools wrap up another year and head into summer, teachers will likely be heading into a summative evaluation conference with their building administrator.  Discussion will surround evidence and artifacts collected that highlight teacher effectiveness, successful completion of his or her professional development plan, and last but certainly not least, student learning outcomes by way of student growth objective (SGO) data. 

SGOs are measures of student learning included in the evaluations of teachers.  They are specific and measurable academic goals that are usually aligned to state academic standards developed by the teacher with consultation from a supervisor.  SGOs account for a percentage of a teacher’s summative rating. 

Believe it or not (insert sarcasm here), reading and math SGOs may not be appropriate for all students.  If you are a teacher in this boat, below are some tips that may be helpful in creating future SGOs.  If you are a BCBA providing consultation to a teacher in this boat, it is important to learn about SGOs, teacher evaluation systems, and other hot-button issues affecting public school teachers on a daily basis. 

Tips for Creating Meaningful SGOs:

1.  As you prepare for this year’s summative evaluation conference, consider including the topic of next year’s SGOs in your meeting.  Review the following suggestions and be ready to discuss your findings.  Collaboration is the key!

2.  Visit your state’s Department of Education website for further information.  For example, below is some information found on the NJDOE website:

Q: I teach a population of students with severe disabilities.  Can I set a SGO that addresses progress in non-academic areas in this case?

A: If you are teaching a group of students whose academic progress is limited by certain behavioral or emotional restrictions (e.g., students who cannot read or write), you may set a non-academic SGO.   However, the design of this SGO should still capture a significant portion of the work that you are doing with your students throughout the year.  In addition, a non-academic SGO for a group of students must be appropriate for all of the students in the group.  If your group of students is extremely diverse, it would be better to set individual goals for each of the students tailored to their specific needs and identified areas of growth.  You would then aggregate the results of these goals into one SGO score.

3.  Consider using a criterion-referenced assessment that assesses language, social and other related skills for formative and summative measures.  Some examples include, but are certainly not limited to, the PEAK Relational Training System: Direct Training Module (Dixon, 2014), the Verbal Behavior Milestones and Placement Program (VB-MAPP; Sundberg, 2014), and the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills-Revised (ABLLS-R; Partington, 2008).  Hopefully, you are already using one!

4.  Take a look at your students’ existing educational programs.  Create a SGO that targets a skill that will benefit ALL students.  Doing so will make it more likely that ALL students can be included in your SGO.  Targeting the same skill does not mean that all students will be provided with intervention at the same level of the skill.  For example, one student may be working on requesting (manding) for items/actions while another student may be working on manding for information.  Both students are working on the skill of manding, however, at different levels.  Below is a sample SGO that captures the skill of manding.

At least 83.5% of my students will gain 2 points in the mand domain of the VB-MAPP (Sundberg, 2014) by the end of the 5-month instructional period (April 30, 2017).

Note:  The purpose of this article is to provide teachers with information that may be useful when creating SGOs.  Ultimately, specific guidelines and requirements regarding the creation of SGOs will be decided by state departments of education, school districts, and administration.

Tell us about your experiences with SGOs in the comments below.  Also, be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


Dixon, M. R. (2014). The PEAK relational training system: Direct training module. Carbondale, IL: Shawnee Scientific Press.

Partington, J. W. (2008). The assessment of basic language and learning skills – revised (the ABLLS-R). Pleasant Hill, CA: Behavior Analysts.

State of New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). (1996-2016). AchieveNJ frequently asked questions. Retrieved from

Sundberg M. L.  (2014). Verbal behavior milestones assessment and placement program (2nd ed.). Concord, CA:  AVB Press. 

Jennifer FishanJennifer Fisahn, M.Ed., BCBA has worked with individuals with autism and their families for seventeen years.  She is a certified Teacher of the Handicapped, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®), and parent of a child with autism.  Jennifer has public school experience teaching preschool through high-school aged students as well as extensive experience as a school district consultant, direct service provider and supervisor for home-based ABA programs.  She currently serves as the training coordinator for the Foundation for Autism Training and Education (FATE) and conducts workshops on the topics of ABA and autism.  Jennifer regularly contributes to a resource-rich blog for teachers, therapists, and caregivers and also created the S.T.A.R.S. Network, a group aimed at supporting teachers and paraprofessionals working with individuals with autism.  You can contact her at [email protected].

1 Comment on "SGOs, Teacher Evaluation, and Students with Severe Disabilities – Tips for Teachers"

  1. Essential for Living published by Patrick McGreevy, BCBA is another curriculum and skills tracking system that would be most appropriate for intermediate and older students with severe disabilities. There is a focus on essential skills that are needed by all people and a focus on decreasing prompts and generalization.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.