In Kentucky, we have a new teacher evaluation plan called the Professional Growth and Evaluation System (PGES). Within this evaluation system, there is a student growth component. As teachers, we have to set a Student Growth Goal (SGG) based around an Enduring Skill. Since our state has adopted and is implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), I had to set my SGG around one the enduring skills set forth in it (basically think the Practices) as Kentucky further broke those practices down into 12 Enduring Skills. I was part of the group that was pulled in my county to develop rubrics centered around those skills and to delineate the skills K-12. My department selected the modeling skill and then took the three criteria and laid those out by grade level. Sixth grade had the criteria of students developing models to explain, Seventh grade had the criteria of using those models to predict and Eighth grade had the criteria of identifying limitations and merits of models.

I tell you all that to set the stage for what I have been working on with my students. Through this entire semester, with any possible model, the students have been tasked with identifying limitations and merits. That task sometimes has been through a lab, watching a simulation, looking at an image, reading directions, analyzing a graph in a warmup or through regular class instruction. At first, their answers were very basic as expected. I would get answers like, the text is not clear, it is kind of smudged, the lines aren’t very clear. A couple days ago, I showed them a graph and asked them to “ID and explain the limitations and merits of the model”. I heard answers for limitations like the following:

“the scale is ok but it could be rescaled so we could get a better understanding of what the data is showing us”
“the x axis is left for the reader to assume it’s year but it should be labeled so we don’t assume”
“it would be nice to have a written explanation with major world events tied in to try and see if any of the changes in the graph can be tied to a major world event”

As for merits:

“The graph does a good job of showing you the overall trend of the data”
“This graph could easily be extended to help predict future trends”
“The simplicity of the graph allows the reader to easily analyze what is going on”

And it was through those answers, as an informal assessment, that I am seeing the growth in their understanding and ability to analyze a graph. Soon I will do an official assessment but for now, I am happy to see growth, from all of my classes.

We have never really asked them to think like this before and if we did, it was in isolation and never system wide. I told my students to expect to see these types of questions every time we do something that can be considered a model. I believe this constant reminding and work on this task is bearing fruits.

It would be great to hear from the rest of you about how you are going about implementing the practices from the NGSS. It would be fantastic to hear from fellow Kentucky folks to see how you are going about implementing them in relation to your SGG.